Prime Minister Viktor Orbán was in Brussels to meet top EU officials in a bid to settle the row over Hungary's new constitution. The European Commission has begun legal action, arguing the laws will damage central bank and judicial independence.
Orbán is seeking a political agreement with European Commission President José Manuel Barroso after European Union finance ministers pressed the government for more deficit-cutting measures.
Orbán is trying to restart bailout talks that broke down last month over a central bank law that the International Monetary Fund and the EU said threatens monetary-policy independence. Hungary faces infringement procedures by the bloc over laws on the central bank, the judiciary and the data protection agency. The forint rallied and government bond yields fell after Orbán pledged to change legislation to satisfy the EU, allowing the central bank to unexpectedly hold its benchmark interest rate at 7 percent on Tuesday, the bloc’s highest. The currency fell to a record low and Hungary’s credit risk reached a record high on Jan. 5 over speculation the talks may collapse.
The speaker of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, has told Orbán he should not think EU leaders "are stupid" and should not think he could say one thing in Budapest, and another in Brussels. "Prime Minister Orban is an efficient man," Mr Schulz, flanked by Orbán, told reporters.
"He is an efficient man by taking on board in Brussels the European rhetoric and to blame the same rhetoric when he is in Budapest as a kind of inadmissible approach. "So the Europeans should take into account that he is a clever man as a party leader but he should take into account that the European leaders are not stupid."
Schulz said that at the meeting he had expressed as his personal opinion his concerns over Hungary’s new constitution and the political strategy of the Hungarian prime minister. He said Orbán had reiterated the Hungarian government’s readiness to change certain legislation, if need be.
Schulz said that he had fully respected the independence of the Hungarian nation and the government, adding that at the same time he had expressed concerns over components of the new supreme law.
On his Twitter account, the parliamentary speaker said he had told Orbán that EU institutions would "remain firm in their stance defending our shared values". He had, he said, the impression that his talks with the Hungarian prime minister "would lead PM Orbán to reflect".
Orbán stressed that he fully respected the European Parliament he considered the “heart” of democracy, even if he disagreed with some opinion expressed there. He said he was ready to discuss any “complicated issues” in an open manner and expressed his strong belief that a consensus would be reached on the most important issues after several further rounds of talks with the EP president.
In a press release sent to MTI press chief of the prime minister Bertalan Havasi said that the two politicians agreed that any other external pressure on Hungary could have damaging effects, including the implementation of Article 7 of the EU treaty.
Source: Bloomberg, BBC, MTI