BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Hungary is willing to discuss any issues at talks with the International Monetary Fund from which it wants to secure a funding deal, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said on Sunday.
Budapest faces tough negotiations with officials from the International Monetary Fund and European Union, who have made it clear Orban needs to change his stance on a new law they say curbs the independence of the country’s central bank.
The Fund’s Managing Director Christine Lagarde has said Hungary’s legislation on its central bank will be a key issue at the upcoming talks with the country.
“From our part the talks have no precondition whatever,” Orban said in an interview with the state news agency MTI.
“All issues can be discussed (at the talks) that the negotiating partners feel important,” he added.
A Hungarian delegation is expected to visit the IMF on Wednesday. Earlier informal talks with the IMF and the European Commission were cut short over the central bank bill.
The bill was amended by parliamentary approval late last month, but the amendments did not fully take into account the criticism of the European Central Bank.
The ECB and the European Union had said that the bill -- which adds two members including a deputy governor to the central bank’s seven-seat Monetary Council -- could hurt the bank’s independence, breaching EU rules.
Orban repeated in the interview that he saw no legal problem with the bill particularly because the European Commission did not complain in 2004 when the bank’s Council was enlarged under a previous Hungarian government.
Hungary’s credit rating was cut to junk by Fitch on Friday, the country’s third downgrade since November.
The prime minister said Hungary’s downgrade by Fitch was part of a wave of rating cuts in Europe in which “downgrades have a season.”
“We are in the period of downgrades but the season of upgrades will come too,” he added.
Orban also said in response to questions that changes in his centre-right government were not on the agenda.
Reporting by Sandor Peto. Editing by Jane Merriman