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UPDATE - PM rejects Barroso’s request to withdraw contested bills

Prime Minister Viktor Orban said he rejected European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso’s request to withdraw two recent bills, related to financial stability and the central bank.

Speaking in an interview to commercial Hir TV late on Thursday, Mr Orban said he told Mr Barroso in his reply letter that it was not possible to delay the two draft laws because they were "important building blocks of the country’s new constitution which is to come into effect from January". He added that neither law contained anything which the European Commission’s president had a right or capacity to criticise.

The prime minister said every bill put to the Hungarian Parliament was in line with the European legal framework.

Hungary does not want to take out a loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), it needs a precautionary credit line, the PM said.

"What we need is an agreement so that we can access a credit line if international markets become paralysed. That is we do not need a specific sum but a precautionary credit line, therefore any speculation about forints or dollars is premature," Mr Orban said.

Consultations are now ongoing on what type of credit line would be the subject of the negotations with the IMF and the EU, he added.

Hungary’s endavour to lead its own economic policy and to be independent has not changed and will not change, the PM said.

With regard to the upcoming series of talks with the IMF and the EU, Mr Orban said "the whole affair does not have that much significance." The prime minister added that "If we come to an agreement with the IMF, then we have a security contract, if we don’t come to an agreement, then we don’t have one. The country would still be able to stand on its own feet, it would still function." Mr Orban asserted that "the effect that the problems of others exercises upon us" is why Hungary needs to ensure itself and not against its own problems.

Mr Orban said otherwise he told Mr Barroso "a whole lot of good news" in his letter, such as the fact that the Hungarian parliament has adopted the 2012 budget, which he termed one of the best economic and financial plans in Europe. He also told the European Commission President that the government had agreed with the banks on the matter of distressed forex borrowers.

The prime minister noted that, compared with other European Union member states, Hungary has the fewest - namely fourteen - disputes resulting from national regulations infringing community law. He said that if the European Commission President or another EU official believes that a Hungarian regulation is contrary to EU law, that is not a "scandal of global dimensions", but part and parcel of day-to-day life in Brussels.

In connection with the bill for the new Central Bank Act, Mr Orban said the originally submitted bill did not contravene European law on any points. "Should we create an act infringing European law, the criticism will come not from the European Central Bank, but the Commission, and, if necessary, the number of procedures will increase to 15 from 14," Mr Orban added.

Mr Orban said in the interview that no proposal on merging the National Bank of Hungary with another institution was submitted to parliament. The prime minister said this possibility will simply be left open in the constitution, but if parliament decided to take this opportunity, they would have to create legislation, he said, adding that there are no plans either to relegate central bank president Andras Simor to vice president.

In connection to Standard & Poor’s downgrade of Hungary’s credit status, Mr Orban said the whole of Europe is under attack, everyone is continuously being downgraded, "we are slowly getting used to it, but for that reason it is losing importance".

Mr Orban confirmed that he believes the road for Hungary’s success is "the one we have been travelling in the past 18 months".

There will be no government reshuffle on January 1 and there will not be any big-scale reshuffle either in the future, he said.

Earlier in the week, Mr Barroso asked the Hungarian prime minister in a letter to withdraw the two bills, which were fast-tracked for adoption last week, and suggested this might be a precondition for talks on a pending loan agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the European Union. Mr Barroso said neither laws complied with the EU’s basic treaty.

Parliament is scheduled to vote on the financial stability act on Friday and the central bank act next week.