The bill on administrative courts has been submitted to Parliament, the Justice Minister said. László Trócsányi also announced that, on behalf of the government, he will turn to the Venice Commission in order to request the body to review whether the proposed legislation is in harmony with international standards.

He will request the review with regard to the increased domestic and international interest which the bill has attracted, and also because some opposition parties are “attacking the bill in an irresponsible manner already at this point in time”, without actually knowing its content, the Minister said.

Mr Trócsányi pointed out that a separate system of independent administrative courts may come into being in Hungary again. He said in justification of the need for administrative courts that an administrative lawsuit is not the same as a lawsuit under private law; the two are only similar from a formal point of view.

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The Minister explained that there was a system of independent administrative courts in Hungary from 1896 until 1949, following which there was no independent administrative judiciary until 1989. Certain measures were adopted already in 2011 when administrative and labour courts were set up within the ordinary court system. The law providing for separate procedures for administrative lawsuits was passed last year. The amendment made to the Fundamental Law this year then provided for the establishment of an administrative high court, said Mr Trócsányi, observing that there are separate administrative courts in most countries of the European Union.

He stressed that the purpose of the bill submitted to Parliament is to enhance the rule of law. Before the drafting of the bill, there were wide-ranging professional consultations in which judges and representatives of academia equally participated. The Minister thanked the National Judicial Office, the President of the Curia, the prosecutor general and the Hungarian Bar Association for having supported the codification process with their recommendations.

Mr Trócsányi said the administrative high court will be seated in Esztergom: the property to accommodate the court passed into state ownership on Tuesday. There will be administrative tribunals “of a regional nature” in eight cities. In the future, labour lawsuits, too, will be heard at tribunal level, he added.

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Mr Trócsányi highlighted that the Ministry of Justice will be responsible for the external administration of administrative courts. In explanation he said that the minister of justice as at any time will be accountable to Parliament for ensuring the operation of an effective and high-level administrative court system.

Mr Trócsányi stressed that the system will be built on a balanced arrangement among the relevant players such as self-governing agencies, the national administrative judicial council, court presidents and the minister. He said those who are working as administrative judges today will – at their own request – remain administrative judges also in the future. No one will lose their jobs, they are relying on the work of all judges who have served as administrative judges so far, he stated.

The Minister also highlighted that the bill regarding the entry into force of the proposed legislation and transitional rules has been submitted to Parliament as well.

In answer to a question from a journalist claiming that, according to press reports, András Patyi, former President of the National Election Commission, is the most probable candidate for the position of head of administrative high court, Mr Trócsányi said that pursuant to the bill, the head of state will make a recommendation regarding the person to lead the court. He added that there are a number of excellent judges working at administrative courts who may be candidates; Mr Patyi is one of them.

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Academician György Kiss, chair of the professional committee that took part in the drafting of the proposal, said there is no separate administrative judge status. This means that the proposal does not seek to break the single judicial status, or to alter the spirit of the single judicial identity.

He said that, on request, those working as administrative judges will become part of the system of administrative courts to be established, in their own right.

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Péter Hajnal, President of the Association of Hungarian Administrative Judges highlighted that the former rule applies not only to judges, but equally to junior judges and judicial trainees, meaning that they also have the possibility to seek transfer to the new organisation.

According to the proposed legislation, only judges appointed for an indefinite term will be allowed to hold senior court offices. This means, based on the current regulations, that those who have worked as judges for minimum three years will be eligible, said Mr Hajnal, pointing out that in the new system neither judges with inadequate experience, nor new applicants from outside will be eligible for senior court offices.