NGOs analyze Government reactions concerning the Venice Commission’s opinion on the new Constitution of Hungary

The Venice Commission issued an opinion on the new Constitution (the “Fundamental Law”) of Hungary in June 2011. Due to the lack of an official Hungarian translation and the misleading statements of government party representatives, the public may have a false impression of the content of the opinion. Therefore, the Eötvös Károly Institute, the Hungarian Helsinki Commitee and the HCLU have prepared a joint analysis on the reactions of the Government in light of the Venice Commission’s opinion.

The main statements of the analysis are the following:

1. As opposed to Government communication, the Fundamental Law is criticized thoroughly by the Venice Commission instead of being praised. The opinion of the Venice Commission raises serious concerns as to the circumstances of adopting the Fundamental Law and the grave substantial problems included in the opinion may be addressed only by amending the Constitution.

2. In contrast to statements of Government representatives, the opinion does not interpret the Fundamental Law in a mala fide way. European requirements are brought to the attention of the Hungarian Government mildly by the diplomatic analysis. In case of ambiguity or deficiencies, the Venice Commission interprets the text several times in a benign way, e.g. with regard to abortion or secularization. Moreover, the Venice Commission may not be condemned for showing that the wording of the Fundamental Law’s certain provisions may easily lead to an unacceptable interpretation.

3. Contrary to the Government’s standpoint, the opinion of the Venice Commission makes it clear that democratic structures are endangered by several provisions of the Fundamental Law. Examples include upholding the limited powers of the Constitutional Court to review laws, the new rules on limiting fundamental rights, the system of laws requiring a two-thirds majority that allows for the cementing of the current Government’s decisions on tax and social policy, or the Budgetary Council’s anti-democratic possibility to hinder the Parliament in adopting the state budget.

The analysis of the NGOs also gives a brief analysis of the Fundamental Law’s provisions commented on by the Venice Commission in light of the Hungarian constitutional traditions, and criticizes the text on that basis sometimes even harsher than the Venice Commission.

The full analysis is available here (pdf).

The opinion of the Venice Commission is available here.

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