* Raises prospect of lengthy discipline procedure
* Commission's role to ensure national laws respect treaties
BRUSSELS Jan 4 The European Union plans
to decide in the coming days or weeks whether to take action
against disputed new laws in Hungary, a spokesman for the EU
executive said on Wednesday.
Hungary last week passed laws, including one that critics
say threatens the independence of its central bank, which the EU
believes may infringe the bloc's basic rules.
European Commission spokesman Olivier Bailly said the
Commission had already sent letters to Budapest expressing its
concern, and that European commissioners would decide what
further action to take.
"The College (of commissioners) will decide in the coming
days or weeks when or if there is an infringement, and of course
the Commission will act in order to make sure the Hungarian law
is in line with EU treaties," Bailly said.
"These new laws have now entered into force, and our
concerns remain and they will remain until the Commission has
completed its legal assessment."
The issue is thorny for the EU, because it raises the
question of how to discipline member states that infringe the
bloc's fundamental rules.
The EU imposes stringent requirements on prospective members
on issues ranging from economic management to human rights, so
that the potential reward of future membership can persuade them
However, procedures for dealing with suspected infractions
by existing member states are lengthy.
If the College sends a letter of formal notice to a member
state, it then has two months to clarify its position, Bailly
If the Commission then considers this response inadequate,
it can send "a reasoned opinion", saying the law contradicts EU
treaties and demanding a change within another two months.
If the member state still does not change the law, the
Commission can then take it to the European Court of Justice,
the EU's highest legal authority, asking the court to condemn
the state for non-respect of EU law and possibly also to impose
a financial penalty.