* Raises prospect of lengthy discipline procedure
* Commission’s role to ensure national laws respect treaties
BRUSSELS, Jan 4 (Reuters) - 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 to conform.
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 said.
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.