Hungary govt to submit judicial bill to parliament to unlock EU funds -minister

BUDAPEST (Reuters) -After talks with the European Commission, Hungary's government will submit a key judicial reform bill to parliament as part of its efforts to unlock suspended EU funds, Justice Minister Judit Varga said on her official Facebook page on Thursday.

"We have the green light from Brussels (to the judicial bill)," Varga said, adding that based on notification from the European Commissioner for Justice, Didier Reynders, the government would submit the bill to parliament now.

Hungary could receive some 5.8 billion euros in free grants and a further 9.6 billion euros in cheap loans from the EU, but the bloc has suspended any payments until Budapest's nationalist government implements reforms to improve judicial independence and tackle corruption.

The judicial package has been considered as an important milestone in the process to access the funds, which Hungary needs as its economy is stagnating and inflation running above 25%.

Hungary and Poland are the EU's only member states lagging behind in getting the funds, amid long-standing criticism from the Commission that their right-wing governments are damaging democracy and the rule of law.

In February, Hungary's EU negotiator said ironing out remaining issues with Brussels over democratic reforms needed to win the recovery funds could last until the summer.

In more than a decade in power, Prime Minister Viktor Orban has had many bitter run-ins with the EU and its executive arm, the European Commission, over Budapest restricting the rights of migrants, as well as tightening state controls over non-governmental organizations, academics, media and courts.

(Reporting by Krisztina ThanEditing by Bernadette Baum)