Hungary’s Orban to face EU lawmakers over rights concerns

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BRUSSELS: Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban will defend his country’s record on rule of law at a European Parliament hearing on Wednesday, officials said, as the EU mulls possible action against Budapest.

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The European Commission warned this month that it could move within weeks if Orban did not resolve EU concerns about plans to tighten government control over migrants, academic freedoms and NGOs.

A spokeswoman for parliament’s biggest group, the center-right European People’s Party (EPP) to which Orban belongs, said the prime minister “will be there on Wednesday” for a scheduled debate on Hungary.

“He will address MEPs,” the spokeswoman said Tuesday.

The Hungarian EU representative office in Brussels confirmed the premier’s visit but gave no further details.

Orban has sparked deep unease over legislation that could force the closure of the Central European University in Budapest, founded by US billionaire investor George Soros and seen as a beacon of the liberal values often derided by the prime minister.

The government has also handed out a questionnaire entitled “Let’s stop Brussels!” asking households how to deal with EU policies that it says threaten Hungary’s independence.

Meanwhile, legislation is pending which would force NGOs receiving about 23,000 euros per year from abroad to register with the authorities.

Amid mounting criticism, especially in the EU parliament, European Commission First Vice President Frans Timmermans said this month that Hungary’s actions so far did not amount to a “systemic threat” to EU rule of law standards.

But the commission is prepared to “move to the next steps” at the end of April if the matter is not resolved, he said.

Last year, the EU launched legal action against Poland’s right-wing government over changes to its Constitutional Court, a move which can cause a member state to lose its voting rights if found at fault. AFP

AFP/CC

 

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