European Parliament raps Hungary PM over legal changes
* EU parliament steps up criticism of Hungarian PM's changes
* Orban says EU accusations have "no factual basis"
STRASBOURG, France, July 3 (Reuters) - The European Parliament told Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban on Wednesday he risked isolating his country in Europe unless he repealed "anti-democratic" changes to the constitution.
The EU has long been concerned about what it sees as Hungary's drift back to authoritarianism, especially after the constitutional amendments approved in March. Orban rejected the European Parliament's criticism as having "no factual basis".
European lawmakers say Orban, who has used his two-thirds majority to enact hundreds of laws since sweeping to power in 2010, has abused EU values by trying to curb the power of the judiciary and restrict political advertising in private media.
They voted 370-249 for a non-binding resolution deploring the changes, which they said had "resulted in a clear weakening of the system of checks and balances".
"We are not seeking controversy, we are going after things that are important for everyone's fundamental rights," said Rui Tavares, a Portuguese Green lawmaker who led the efforts to call Budapest to account.
"In the EU, we strive to have higher standards of democracy," Tavares told a news conference.
Guy Verhofstadt, the leader of the Liberals in the parliament and a former Belgian prime minister, accused Orban of "dismantling the rule of law" in Hungary.
Following the parliament's vote, lawmakers could ask EU governments to consider suspending Hungary's voting rights in the 28-nation bloc, which would amount to diplomatic isolation, unless Budapest takes steps to address their concerns.
But the EU's stance on Hungary is undermined by divisions between member states, a lack of tools at Brussels' disposal to punish a member state it sees as erring and the technical nature of Orban's perceived transgressions.
The conservative prime minister has upset Brussels with his plans to prohibit paid political advertising on television and radio and to allow the head of an office in charge of the judiciary to transfer cases from one court to another.
Budapest offered last month to drop its proposed changes for the judiciary but is still negotiating with the European Commission, the EU executive, on the issue of political adverts.
The EU is also concerned that a future administration wishing to repeal some of the laws passed under Orban would need a two-thirds parliamentary majority, something only one other government has achieved since the fall of communism in 1989.
Orban, who attended a debate at the European Parliament on Tuesday, dismissed the lawmakers' criticism as politically biased.
"There is no factual basis (to the parliament's accusations). We are under strong pressure because of ideologically motivated decisions," he told a news conference on Tuesday, comparing the EU institutions to Soviet communism.
(Reporting by Robin Emmott in Brussels; Editing by Gareth Jones)