We reject the unfounded claims made in a press statement which was released by the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights in connection with administrative courts and the laws adopted by Hungarian Parliament.

The commissioner’s view is presumably based on press information. Her claims clearly indicate that she is not familiar either with the background history of the legislation, or its conceptual elements. She is likewise unfamiliar with the text of the adopted law.

In the past 30 years there has been wide-ranging professional agreement in academic circles regarding the need for a separate system of administrative courts. Since 2014 Justice Minister László Trócsányi, an internationally recognised authority on the matter, has been known to be committed to creating an organisationally independent system of administrative courts. In the first stage of the implementation of the concept, in 2017 the regulations regarding administrative procedures significantly broadened the range of decisions adopted by the authorities that may be reviewed in administrative procedures.

The foundations for a system of administrative courts were laid by Parliament through the seventh amendment of the Fundamental Law. Simultaneously with the passage of the amendment, preparatory legislative work started with the involvement of judges and representatives of academia. Stakeholders were regularly informed about the progress of work, and the process was fully transparent. Before the submission to Parliament of the completed bill, in accordance with the relevant Hungarian legal rules, the Ministry of Justice presented it for a wider social consultation. No concerns such as the ones raised by the commissioner were voiced in the social consultation.

The law on administrative courts guarantees judicial independence in the administration of administrative courts in which the minister’s powers – e.g. also in respect of the appointment of judges – are more limited compared with European states following the ministerial administrative model. Judicial autonomy and judicial leaders, too, have significant powers in the administration of administrative courts. In connection with the budget of administrative courts, for instance, the bodies functioning within courts do not only have the right to make recommendations, but also have a right of veto. Compared with the rules governing ordinary courts, there is more limited scope for declaring the applications of judges invalid, against the background of more intensive involvement of judicial governing agencies. Regarding the selection of judges, publicity, the availability of appeal options and the obligation to supply reasoning for decisions guarantee transparency. The minister’s powers related to the appointment of judges are extremely limited by law. In an international context one may conclude that the justice ministers or national parliaments of some European countries have much wider powers than those laid down in the adopted legislation. On the whole, a transparent and balanced system will come into being which is based on cooperation and ensures judicial independence with a wide range of guarantees. The Ministry of Justice are convinced that the provisions of the adopted legislation conform to the Fundamental Law and international standards. This is why they sought the position of the Venice Commission on behalf of the Government.

The date of the entry into force of the law on administrative courts and all deadlines were determined in such a way that there is sufficient time for the legislator to consider the opinion of the Venice Commission, and should the need arise to make any necessary adjustments.

The Hungarian Ministry of Justice are open to dialogue as long as it is based on professional arguments and mutual respect.

(Ministry of Justice)