Hungary's Orban hits back in row on constitutional changes

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban hit out at critics of the country's controversial constitutional changes Thursday while offering to sit down and talk about the criticism.

"The Hungarian parliament adopted no legislation that would limit the powers of the Constitutional Court," Orban told a packed press conference held shortly before the opening of a two-day European Union summit.

Hungary has come in for sharp attack after its parliament Monday altered the constitution for the fourth time since Orban swept to office in 2010.

His Fidesz party enjoys a two-thirds parliamentary majority and critics say this week's amendments mean that the constitutional court will no longer be able to void a law endorsed with a two-thirds parliamentary majority and enshrined in the constitution.

But Orban said "the Constitutional Court will continue to be the guardian of the constitution" and said "if the European institutions see something they don't like or is against regulations then let's discuss it."

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 have stoked concerns about creeping authoritarianism in the EU state.

Brussels has clashed with Orban over a whole series of issues, including media freedom and control over both the constitutional court and central bank since the right-wing politician took office.

Washington had also expressed misgivings about the new constitutional re-write, with the State Department saying that it deserves "closer scrutiny and more deliberate consideration".