On the fifth anniversary of the promulgation of the Fundamental Law of Hungary, Minister of Justice László Trócsányi told news agency MTI that the Fundamental Law is “the basis of our legislation, and an alliance of the Hungarians of the past, present and future”.

According to the Minister, the importance of the Fundamental Law is in its creation and approval and the fact that it replaced the Constitution of 1949. Since 1989 and 1990 a new constitution has been a constant topic in public discussion and thinking, he said, and “this process reached its peak with the approval of the Fundamental Law, reflecting a clear set of values and replacing the value-neutral Constitution”. The set of values stated in it is in accord with with the symbols of freedom and the values of the historical Hungarian constitution and European constitutional development, which are our guarantees. The Fundamental Law is “the basis of our legislation, and an alliance of the Hungarians of the past, present and future”. Its objective is to lay down fundamental legal principles which may be adhered to in the long term. “It addresses everyone and sets obligations for everyone – both individuals and their communities – based on common values and common responsibility”, the Minister declared.

He responded to criticism of the Fundamental Law by arguing that there could be a debate on solutions within constitutional law and the individual values represented by the Fundamental Law, but “the Fundamental Law stands above domestic political debate, and is an effective constitution which everyone must comply with”. In his opinion its authors did not wish to hide its stated values and were not ashamed of them. It declares values such as: marriage; the family; fundamental human rights; the unity of the Hungarian nation and the responsibility of its members towards each other; Christianity; European integration; guarantees of sovereignty; and the historical constitution. “The Fundamental Law is based on values”, Mr. Trócsányi stressed. He added that the Fundamental Law is an “aid to our collective memory, because it proudly professes our historic values, while also confronting the crimes of the past. It is also a project for the future, as, learning from the tragic events of the past and relying on the achievements of our constitutional development, it shows a way forward for citizens and the state”.

In a spirit of “political correctness”, some people have criticised the Fundamental Law, questioning this set of values and supporting the value-neutral constitution which was in force between 1989 and 2010. “We did not and do not represent that position”, he stated.

In response to Hungarian and international criticism – and primarily to the objections of the EU and the Venice Commission – he stressed that the state and the nation represent traditional and individual European values which are “reflected in the set of rules and values in the Fundamental Law”. Hungary is an independent and democratic state which proceeds independently in its international relations and creates its fundamental law as a sovereign state. However, Mr. Trócsányi said, in the course of developing its legislation it also takes into account its obligations arising from its membership of international organisations and the EU. Hungary is a democratic state where “political power derives from the people, the rights of minorities are upheld alongside the principle of the will of the majority, and the state respects the inherent rights of individuals”. Hungary is also a state governed by the rule of law, where “the law governs, the exercise of public power is subject to rights, the operation of the state is based on the principle of separation of powers within the state, citizens have the right to legal redress, there is equality before the law, there is protection against discrimination and the system of institutions protecting fundamental rights is in place and works effectively”, he added.

The Minister highlighted the fact that Hungary has taken a firm stance through its constitutional identity based on national traditions, and through its choice of values, and has supported that stance with legal arguments. “We have had several disputes with the Council of Europe and the European Commission, but there is nothing wrong with that, as a discussion can always help in finding a solution”. The Minister reminded his audience that Hungary has stood by its principles, has taken into account the opinion of the Venice Commission, has held constructive discussions with the European Commission and has accepted the decision of the European Court.

He explained that the Fundamental Law had re-opened disputes on values which had been considered to be closed and, in the course of these disputes, had gone through important constitutional law “laboratories”. He added that most of the disputed issues had been resolved. Of course this does not mean that there will be no further dialogue on the institutions of constitutional order and the choice of values of the Fundamental Law, the Minister said: “A Constitution should also be alive in such a sense. The extent to which it withstands debate is one of the indicators of its enduring values”, he said.

In response to the suggestion that the Fundamental Law – described as a law with the “strength of granite” – had, after all, failed the test of the time because it has had to be amended five times, the Minister explained that it is correct and necessary that a country should not look at its own constitution as a legal rule which can be modified at any time based on concerns of the moment. It is nevertheless unacceptable, however, for legislation not to respond to changes or crises in the world. That was one of the objectives during the amendment of the Fundamental Law. The Fifth Amendment resolved most of the disputes related to the constitutional institutions, he explained. Often a measure which seems required for managing a crisis can also affect the fundamental conditions of a country,  he said, giving as an example the section of the Fundamental Law regulating the level of national debt.

The Minister said that for the extension of the Fundamental Law’s social legitimacy it should also become clear in practice that important responsibilities for this lie with both the legislature and the judiciary. Court practice – especially the practice of the Constitutional Court concerning interpretation – can contribute greatly to its effectiveness, but this requires time, he stated.

Mr. Trócsányi stressed that “The approval of a new constitution and the five years since its approval are of symbolic importance, and therefore it is worthy and justified that this anniversary be recognised”.

(Ministry of Justice/MTI)