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Hungary backs down on disputed laws

January 20, 2012 | 12:43 pm

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban backtracks on disputed laws


The Hungarian prime minister has backtracked on disputed laws that were criticized for threatening the independence of its banks, bowing to pressure from the European Union, according to wire reports.

The government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban has been criticized for undercutting democracy, curbing press freedoms and centralizing power. His Fidesz party has passed more than 350 laws in the last year and a half, including a controversial new constitution, according to the Associated Press. Hungary has become a test case for whether the European Union can make good on its promises to use its economic power to enforce democracy.

Less than a year ago, Orban declared Hungary wouldn’t be dictated to from Brussels, seat of  EU policymaking. But Hungary says it needs help to strengthen investor confidence, and it required a bailout under a previous government. Its currency, the forint, tumbled to all-time lows this month.

Orban says he will scrap a planned merger between the Hungarian national bank and its financial regulator, which some feared could threaten the bank's independence. Last year he tweaked a controversial media law after the EU raised concerns.

But Orban has gone only so far in appeasing his critics. Protesters who oppose the Hungarian media law complained this week that authorities had blocked them from rallying on an upcoming national holiday by reserving all likely locations in downtown Budapest, the Associated Press reported.

For more on what’s happening in Hungary, you can listen to this recent piece from NPR, read a business analysis from the New York Times, or get a dose of opinion from the Atlantic.

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-- Emily Alpert

Photo: Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban holds a news conference on January 18, 2012, at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France. Credit: Georges Gobet/Agence France-Presse

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