Hungary's ruling party submits bill on 'protecting national sovereignty'

FILE PHOTO: Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban delivers a speech during the Fidesz party congress in Budapest

BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban's ruling Fidesz party submitted a bill on "protecting national sovereignty" to parliament on Tuesday to defend against what it called undue political interference by foreign persons or groups.

The legislation comes as nationalist Orban, who over the past 13 years has clashed repeatedly with the European Union over democratic rights in Hungary, has stepped up his party's campaign ahead of European Parliament elections next June.

Orban, in power since 2010, has denied accusations he was undermining democracy in the ex-Communist satellite.

The bill would set up a separate authority to explore and monitor risks of political interference and recommend changes in regulations. It would also punish banned foreign financing for parties or groups running for election with up to three years in prison.

"Hungary's sovereignty is impaired -- and it also carries a heightened risk to national security -- if political power gets into the hands of persons or organisations dependent on any foreign power, organisation or person," the bill said.

Lawmakers will need to debate the bill before its final approval.

Orban, who has a two-thirds majority in parliament that allows Fidesz to change any legislation, scored his fourth landslide victory in 2022.

The EU has suspended billions of euros of funding to Hungary over a rule-of-law dispute during the tenure of Orban, who has appealed to conservative voters by portraying himself as a defender of Hungary's national interests.

The legislation, first proposed in September, coincided with the launch of a billboard campaign vilifying European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and a survey with anti-EU tunes about the bloc's policies including funding for Ukraine and talks on EU membership with the war-torn country.

(Reporting by Boldizsar Gyori and Gergely Szakacs; Editing by Josie Kao)