Reding Says EU May Move Against Hungary on Legal Changes

The European Union will probably start infringement procedures against Hungary after signaling “serious concerns” about the erosion of the rule of law following a disputed amendment to the constitution.

“The commission is working on a thorough legal analysis which will lead probably to infringement procedures and this will happen rather quickly,” European Union Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding told reporters in Brussels today.

The European Commission, the executive arm of the 27-nation bloc, said on April 12 that it had “serious concerns over the compatibility” of the country’s most recent constitutional amendment with the EU’s laws and values.

Hungary’s Parliament passed a constitutional amendment last month that curtails judicial authority, limits campaign ads in private media, restricts the definition of a family to marriage and allows the criminalization of homeless people who live on the streets. Hungary’s commissioner for fundamental rights, Mate Szabo, asked the Constitutional Court to review the amendment, saying the lack of parliamentary debate about parts of it was a “serious procedural flaw,” state news agency MTI said yesterday.

The EU’s criticism concerning the erosion of checks and balances in Hungary is fueled by corporate lobbying as companies seek to protect their “luxury profit” after government- mandated utility-price cuts, Prime Minster Viktor Orban said on April 19.

The amendment, which reinstated regulations that the Constitutional Court had previously vetoed, underscored concern for the rule of law and checks and balances in Hungary, where Orban wields a two-thirds parliamentary majority.

The government recognizes EU norms and will change laws if they are found to violate them, Antal Rogan, parliamentary group leader of the ruling Fidesz party, said on April 18.

To contact the reporters on this story: Jones Hayden in Brussels at jhayden1@bloomberg.net; Edith Balazs in Budapest at ebalazs1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James M. Gomez at jagomez@bloomberg.net

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