EU's Reding says Hungary constitution 'not a toy'

EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding criticised Hungary for treating its constitution like "a toy" and called for more effective measures to sanction EU treaty violations in an interview with Austrian media on Saturday.

"The state of law is not to be trifled with. A constitution is not a toy that one can change every few months," Reding told the daily Der Standard when asked about the Hungarian government's numerous changes to the constitution since coming to power in 2010.

"What we see in Hungary is a systematic course of action against the constitution... It is just amended every three to six months.

"Laws are adopted in the constitution so that the constitutional court can no longer find them unconstitutional," Reding said in the interview, which was published in German.

"Everybody agrees that what we are now doing with Hungary is not enough. We need more effective instruments so that we need not always resort to treaty violation procedures," she concluded.

Hungary's right-wing government came to power with a two-thirds majority allowing it to change the constitution and has passed a raft of controversial laws since then -- including on the media, the central bank and the judiciary -- that has drawn severe criticism at home and abroad.

Most recently, an amendment was passed in March that curbs the powers of the constitutional court and reinstates controversial measures its judges had ruled void.

In an April letter to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, European Commission head Jose Manuel Barroso expressed "serious concerns" over the changes and warned Hungary that it faced possible sanctions.

New York-based rights watchdog Human Rights Watch also urged the EU last month to put more pressure on Hungary including a possible suspension of voting rights to bring the country into line with EU law.