Hungary aims to change laws by end-Feb, hopes for end-March IMF deal – Orban WSJ interview

Budapest, January 26 (MTI) – Hungary aims to change disputed laws by the end of February and hopes to have an IMF/EU aid deal in place by the end of March, Prime Minister Viktor Orban told the Wall Street Journal in an interview published on Thursday.

The WSJ said the legislature, “dominated by his Fidesz party, should be able to make any required legal amendments by the end of February.”


It quoted Orban as saying he was “hopeful a deal could be struck by the end of March.”


It also said the prime minister wanted to “reclaim his country’s economic independence.”


The paper said in the interview conducted on Wednesday that Hungary would change the data-privacy law as requested by the EU. Orban also indicated he was willing to consider changes to legislation governing taxation and public debt, said the paper.


But he defended Hungary’s decision to lower the retirement age of judges to 62 from 70. He told the paper the move was designed to make retirement ages consistent nationwide.


He dismissed criticism of his democratic credentials as ideologically motivated or rooted in misunderstanding, the paper said.


Orban said Hungary had agreed to scrap legislation that allows the merger of the central bank with a financial regulatory agency … [and] Hungary would end its practice of having a government representative present at the bank’s rate-setting meetings.


According to Wall Street Journal Europe online, “the prime minister was less open to changing a law capping the wages of central-bank officials in line with the limits on state employees in other agencies. The EU has said such a limit could hurt the central bank’s freedom.”


“There’s a salary cap for all state officers. There are no exceptions,” Orban told the paper. “I think that is acceptable. We don’t understand why the EU views it as an attack on the independence of the central bank.”


“I’m facing the biggest intellectual challenge of my political career,” Orban said. “I have to put together an economic policy that curbs indebtedness, pushes the budget deficit below 3 percent, in the context of recessions in many countries in the EU and low growth at home.”


“I think the economic policies we have today, the budget we have, we are on the right track,” the prime minister told the paper. “We need a guarantee behind us, which is a clear message to the financial markets.”