Justice Minister Judit Varga initiates modification of Hungary’s Fundamental Law
May 04. 2022. – 12:32 PM
“I have submitted the 10th modification of the Fundamental Law to Parliament”
wrote Justice Minister Judit Varga on her social media page. She added: the Russia-Ukraine war has resulted in a humanitarian crisis not seen since the 2nd World War, and has also changed Europe’s economic prospects. In order to manage these, and to protect the country from their effects, our country must ensure the capacity to develop effective and rapid national responses.
The text of the modification states that “the modification of the Fundamental Law provides an opportunity for the government to declare a state of danger in case a war or armed conflict breaks out in a neighboring country, or if a humanitarian catastrophe should occur.”
A few weeks ago, at the government’s first press conference following the elections on April 3rd, Gergely Gulyás mentioned that based on the information they currently have, the government considers it realistic that the war in Ukraine could continue for months or even years.
The minister said that since “in case of war, it is important for the government to be capable of action”, the government will ensure this is possible by initiating that the definition of danger in the Fundamental Law be expanded to cover humanitarian disasters and war and armed conflicts in neighboring countries. He explained that this would be done by initiating a modification to the Fundamental Law of the country.
In regards to the pandemic, Parliament will be adopting the Exit Act leading out of the state of danger; thus, the state of danger introduced because of the Covid-19 pandemic is set to be lifted on May 31st. However, the definition of what constitutes a state of danger will be supplemented to include a war in a neighboring country.
Gulyás said that the government hopes they would not need to use this instrument, but “this tool should be made available to ourselves and any future governments”
„We will see if events develop in a way as to justify declaring a state of danger.”
– the minister said.
When the state of danger was first introduced in Hungary, we explained in detail how this differs from a state of emergency, and the provisions it grants according to Hungarian law.
In emergency situations, the government may need to react quickly, and the easiest way to do this is by decree, and the declaration of a state of danger provides this opportunity. This essentially makes it possible for the government to take any steps they consider necessary for fighting a virus outbreak, or in this case, a humanitarian crisis caused by a neighboring war.
Among the government decrees issued in the first round of the state of danger at the beginning of the epidemic, there were plenty which had no basis in cardinal law, and essentially all the improvised decrees deemed necessary to protect against the epidemic could be included here (e.g. credit moratorium, school closures).
In December 2021, when the Fidesz-majority parliament voted to extend the state of danger yet again, during the debate the opposition accused the government of using the state of danger to assert its own power. Some of the examples brought up were the difficulties of requesting data of public interest – especially data relating to the epidemic -, cuts in municipal funding, the outsourcing of the majority of Hungary’s state-run universities to foundations run by government politicians, or the increased opacity surrounding public procurement cases.
The application of the Fundamental Law cannot be suspended even under a special legal order, so the Constitutional Court still retains the power to review the Government's emergency decrees. Such a review may be initiated by the Commissioner of Fundamental Rights or by a quarter of the members of Parliament. Besides, though with strict conditions, but any citizen affected by suspected unconstitutional regulations may file a constitutional complaint if they deem that it violates their fundamental freedoms.
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