EU Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn will meet Hungarian officials on Jan 20, following talks this week with the IMF about a new funding deal which is seen as crucial for avoiding a market meltdown.

The minister in charge of Hungary's negotiating team, Tamas Fellegi, is in Washington this week with a mandate to accept a precautionary International Monetary Fund loan with stricter conditions than Budapest originally wanted.

Hungary's conservative Prime Minister Viktor Orban fell out with lenders after they rejected several of his policies in December but a plunging forint, soaring yields and mounting criticism from abroad have forced him to backtrack.

There is indeed a date in Mr. Rehn's agenda to meet, the European Union's spokesman Amadeu Altafaj told a briefing in Brussels on Tuesday.

The EU and IMF cut short aid talks with Hungary in late December in a row government's unorthodox economic policies, notably legislation they said curbed central bank independence.

A new financing deal is important for keeping access to financial markets after a series of new policies undermined investor confidence and the government's popularity at home.

(Reporting By Robin Emmott, additional reporting by Krisztina Than in Budapest editing by Charlie Dunmore)