European Parliament leaders urged the EU today to probe new amendments to Hungary's constitution that allegedly undermine democracy and the rule of law.
They said they were concerned that changes passed on Monday enshrining policies previously struck down by the country's highest court put too much unchecked power in government hands.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban's "government doesn't want to apply European principles and values," warned Liberal parties' caucus head Guy Verhofstadt. The 27-nation bloc must launch a formal investigation and possibly sanction the country to bring it back in line, he added.
The European Commission and human rights watchdog the Council of Europe should both examine the legal changes and suggest modifications if necessary, said Joseph Daul, leader of Parliament's centre-right majority caucus.
Among government policies struck down by the Constitutional Court over the past months but now added to Hungary's Fundamental Law are the possibility for local authorities to fine or jail homeless people living in public areas, banning political campaign ads on commercial media and obliging university students to work in Hungary for years after graduation.
EU Commission spokesman Olivier Bailly said the laws will be checked as soon as possible to make sure they "are in line with EU laws and EU values.
"If necessary we will use our legal instruments to make sure that these laws are changed," he added.
But eurosceptic critics warn that intervention by the EU in national laws is merely replacing one abuse of power by another, even more dangerous, abuse.
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