Hungary has set out to prove its commitment to European consensus-seeking as it begins its six-month tenure of the EU rotating presidency. The traditional gathering of the full set of European Commissioners with the incoming presidency government in Budapest took place in the turbulence of cross-border criticism of a new Hungarian media law, which critics say could lead to state censorship.
Prime Minister Viktor Orban sought to defuse tensions over the matter at a joint press conference with Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso.
Orban said: “We are ready to do everything in order to ensure that this row over the media act does not hamper Hungary’s presidency. This is again a European issue; not only Hungary is interested in a successful presidency.”
Barroso said Brussels was poised to go over the media act: “But apart from the legal aspect, there is also a political part here, and I really welcome the fact that the prime minister is ready to consider changing the law — in case, of course, its implementation shows that some problems are there, and that some concerns could be justified.”
European capitals have criticised the law passed by the parliament in which Orban’s conservative Fidesz party enjoys a two thirds majority. Germany, Britain and France were outspoken about media freedom, which Barroso reiterated is a “sacred” EU value.
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