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Hungary proposes to tweak laws to address EU concerns

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Hungary said it planned to ease a ban on political advertisements in private media and curb the powers of the head of its judiciary office in an apparent bid to address EU criticisms of constitutional amendments passed by the ruling party last month.

The European Commission has threatened to take legal action to overturn the constitutional changes it said may be incompatible with European Union law and the principle of the rule of law.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who has already clashed with Brussels over legislation on the media, courts and the central bank, on Friday assured Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso that Hungary was committed to European norms and values.

According to a bill posted on the Hungarian parliament's website late on Monday, the government proposed to change two parts of the constitutional changes that were criticised by the EU.

Under the new plans, the president of the national office for the judiciary would no longer be able to assign cases governed by EU law to specific courts.

The new draft legislation would also allow the publication of political advertisements in privately-controlled media in next year's European Parliament elections, although it said these must be published free of charge. However, the legislation made no mention of national parliament elections also in 2014.

It is not clear whether the bill, which is awaiting parliamentary approval, would address the European Union's concerns.

Orban had earlier dismissed criticism that the constitutional changes are anti-democratic and last month challenged EU legal experts to present evidence if they had any problems.

In a letter last week, Barroso said the Commission was particularly concerned about the legality of constitutional changes relating to European Court of Justice judgments entailing payment obligations, but this point was not addressed in the new Hungarian legislation.

(Reporting by Krisztina Than; Editing by Andrew Heavens and Stephen Nisbet)

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/thomson-reuters/130416/hungary-proposes-tweak-laws-address-eu-concerns