The Parliament building in Budapest, Hungary ©BELGA/MTI/Balazs Mohai 

After the widely followed January plenary debate with Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, the Civil Liberties Committee is holding a public hearing on Thursday to assess the civil rights situation in the country.

Representatives of European and international institutions, Hungarian civil society and the Hungarian government will take part in the debate.

In January, MEPs already discussed recent political developments in Hungary. The debate took place a day after the European Commission had started infringement procedures against Hungary over the independence of its central bank and data protection authorities and measures affecting the judiciary.

In the debate several political group leaders raised concerns not only over these specific legal provisions, but also what they saw as a wider undermining of democratic values in Hungary. Others vigorously opposed this view, warning that such an approach went too far.

Prime Minister Orbán said that the specific problems raised by the Commission can be solved quickly and easily. He explained that the measures taken by his government over the past year and a half were necessary because Hungary was on the brink of economic collapse in 2010 and a consolidation process is going on now.

Media law, constitution

Last year Hungary was already in the spotlight with its new media law and constitution.

The media law later was later changed to be in line with EU legislation, but in a resolution in March 2011 the EP urged a further review of the rules.

Last July, the EP adopted a resolution on the country's new constitution, calling for more explicit fundamental rights protection.

The letter and the spirit of EU law

EU law, both in letter and spirit must be fully respected by Hungary, just as by any other Member State, said Commission President Barroso after his meeting with Prime Minister Orbán in Brussels on 24 January.

He added that there were wider political concerns that the Hungarian government needed to address, since at a time of economic and financial crisis, the confidence of citizens and markets in Hungary is particularly crucial.

Last November the country requested possible financial assistance from the EU and the IMF.

EP President Martin Schulz also met Prime Minister Orbán on 24 January.  Mr Schulz said that the EU should avoid steps that would mobilise people in Hungary against Europe.