Hungarian parliament approves constitution changes

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THE Hungarian parliament has approved a series of controversial changes to the country’s constitution despite the European Commission threatening to use “all instruments at our disposal” if the amendments curb democratic rights.

The steps, passed overwhelmingly yesterday, include forcing students who receive state funding to work for a set period in the country after they graduate; outlawing sleeping rough; restricting political adverts to state media, and altering the power of the constitutional court.

The governing Fidesz party used its two-thirds majority in parliament to push through the amendments. The Socialists, the main opposition party, boycotted the vote in protest.

Prime minister Viktor Orban said the changes comply with all European standards and principles on democracy and rule of law. However, Brussels was yesterday alarmed at the moves.

The European Commission has warned that funding vital to Hungary’s ailing economy could be at risk if the amendments prove to be contrary to Europe’s “fundamental values”.

“We will not hesitate to use all the instruments at our disposal to make sure that member states comply with their obligations,” said Pia Ahrenkilde Hansen, spokeswoman for Jose Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission.

Mr Orban has said the changes are needed for Hungary to progress, rebuffing European efforts to make him change them, and accusing Brussels of interfering in Hungary’s sovereign affairs.