Merkel warns Hungary over constitutional changes

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday voiced criticism of Hungary's constitutional changes, saying concerns raised by the European Union about the disputed alterations should be taken seriously.

A government spokesman said the chancellor had reacted "critically" to news from Budapest that Hungary's parliament had on Monday altered the constitution for the fourth time since Prime Minister Viktor Orban came to power.

"The concerns expressed by European partners and friends of Hungary, about restrictions on the powers of the constitutional court among other things, should be taken seriously," the spokesman said.

Merkel earlier met President Janos Ader, who is on a state trip to Germany.

The changes, which sparked concerns in Brussels and Washington and provoked protests in Budapest, curb the powers of Hungary's top court and reintroduce controversial measures its judges rendered void in recent months.

The European Commission and the Council of Europe reacted immediately, saying the amendments "raise concerns with respect to the principle of the rule of law, EU law and Council of Europe standards".

The changes passed by parliament, where Orban's Fidesz party has a two-thirds majority, mean the constitutional court will no longer be able to void a law endorsed with a two-thirds parliamentary majority and enshrined in the constitution.

Merkel called for a "responsible" use of the two-thirds majority in parliament.