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Obstacles to IMF/EU talks essentially removed

The obstacles to Hungary starting official negotiations with the International Monetary Fund have been essentially removed, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said in Brussels on Tuesday after talks with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso.

The EU's executive arm will discuss the issues related to Hungary on Wednesday, he said. 

"We have come very close to essentially making a breakthrough. It is a matter of days or weeks at the latest," Orbán told Hungarian reporters after the meeting. 

The number of issues resolved since early this year has by far outnumbered the unresolved ones, Orbán said.

Orbán assured Barroso that the independence of the Hungarian judiciary was not endangered by anything. He added that the government had approved the steps recommended by the Venice Commission and would implement them quickly and in full. 

Concerning the National Bank of Hungary, Orbán indicated that the government would quickly take the measures recommended and continue the "promising" consultations with the European Central Bank on the issues raised by the latter. 

Concerning the data protection institution and the retirement of judges, most of the disputed issues have been resolved, Orbán said, adding that the government "would accept it if the two unresolved issues are settled by the European Court".

The European Commission is seeking clarification regarding the independence of the judiciary and the independence of the central bank in an official procedure. The Hungarian government presented its written responses on March 30.

A Commission statement said the meeting with Orbán had taken place "in a constructive atmosphere".

"The discussion focused on points relating to the on-going infringement proceedings launched by the Commission to ensure compliance of the Hungarian legislation with EU law. The issue of possible precautionary financial assistance to Hungary was also discussed," the statement said.

"President Barroso welcomed the commitments made by Orbán on the prompt and full implementation of the measures regarding the independence of the central bank announced by the Hungarian authorities. He also acknowledged Prime Minister Orbán's commitments on the other outstanding issues, namely on the reform of the judiciary, the data protection authority and the retirement age of judges," it said, adding that the commission would further consider these matters at a meeting on Wednesday.