One of the greatest challenges of the 21st century is to follow up, from a legal point of view, the changes that have been taking place around us for almost twenty years, the Justice Minister stated at an expert forum held on Thursday in Zalakaros.

Judit Varga said at the 43rd Itinerant Conference of Lawyers that giant technology firms “have at their disposal an enormous amount of data about us,” as our lives are taking place on an online platform that is controlled by them.

It is therefore important to screen global technology firms which “have acquired such economic and informal power, the likes of which would have been obtainable only by states a few decades ago,” she added.

She said the Fundamental Law protects freedom of opinion, regardless of its value and truth content. In an opinion issued as early as in 1992, the Constitutional Court laid down that the Constitution guarantees free communication, and the fundamental right of the freedom of opinion does not relate to its content, meaning that there is room for every opinion.

“If a state were to pick and choose opinions as tech giants are doing today, everyone would cry censorship,” Mrs Varga said.

She added that they do not want to protect abusive contents which violate human dignity and the dignity of communities; the Fundamental Law itself lays down that the exercise of the freedom of opinion cannot serve to insult others.

“We are fighting for no less than for preventing tech giants from developing a monopoly of opinion, and for ensuring that they respect freedom of speech and do not pick and choose opinions on an ideological basis,” she said.

Mrs Varga also mentioned the fact that, as part of a new range of responsibilities, the Ministry of Justice also deals with the coordination of EU policies. By virtue of the fact that conventional justice and European affairs now form part of the Justice Ministry’s portfolio, the Minister must also stand her ground “as Hungary’s lawyer” when it comes to enforcing the country’s constitutional and financial interests in EU institutions, she added.

She highlighted that “it is our duty” to ensure that the agencies of the European Union check the enforcement of the principle of the rule of law with the same amount of enthusiasm and thoroughness not only in every Member State, but also within their own institutions. During the procedure related to the nomination of László Trócsányi for commissioner, the competent body “did not proceed in compliance with the relevant regulations”; it should not have adopted a political decision, Mrs Varga stated.

The Justice Minister also pointed out that during her predecessors, the entire legal system had undergone a process of renewal: A new Fundamental Law was adopted, along with the laws which renewed the organisation of the state and the two major codes of substantive law, the Civil Code and the Penal Code. Additionally, Parliament adopted new procedural codes, the laws on civil, public administration and criminal proceedings were renewed, and new laws were created regarding arbitration and international private law.

“No one should believe, however, that with the completion of the main codification processes the ministry is now left without a job,” she said, adding that they are closely looking into the process of entry into force in the case of the main legal codes and are gathering practical experiences.

In addition to subsequent impact assessment, the renewal of the regulation of insolvency proceedings in the interest of the enhancement of Hungary’s legal competitiveness will be another major task, similar in its magnitude to the main legal codes.