CANCELLED: The New Hungarian Constitution, Part II

Thu, 11/17/2011
Noon, Robertson Hall, Bowl 2
Event Category: 
Panel Discussion
* This event has been cancelled*
  • Gábor Halmai, LAPA/PIIRS Visiting Scholar, Etövös Lóránd University
  • Jan-Werner Müller, Politics
  • Kim Lane Scheppele, LAPA Director
  • Balázs Trencsényi, Central European University

This panel will continue the discussion begun on April 25:  "The New Hungarian Constitution: The Long Goodbye to Liberal Democracy?"

On 20 June 2011, the European Commission for Democracy through Law (also known as the Venice Commission) said that the new Hungarian Constitution puts “the principle of democracy itself at risk.”   Democracy was endangered, the Commission said,  because the constitutional framework regulated a number of issues customarily left to be determined by the results of elections in so much detail that it would unduly tie the hands of future governments.   In addition, the restrictions on the powers of the Constitutional Court and the creation of a new and powerful Budgetary Council further caused concern for the preservation of democratic institutions.    The fact that important institutions like the judiciary were under-specified in the Constitution provided additional reasons to worry about the shape of the new government under this Constitution.  

The Venice Commission slammed Hungary for failing to ensure that rights in the new Constitution were protected in a manner consistent with international law and for leaving open the possibility that rights could be eroded by “special acts” that were not yet fully defined in the Constitution.   The new Constitution also has the potential to disrupt international relations by claiming responsibility for all Hungarians wherever they might live.    The Commission also criticized the process through which the Constitution was adopted for failing to be inclusive and transparent, leading to concern about the extent to which the Constitution reflects a consensus of the society.  

The opinion can be found here (PDF) and the press release that accompanied the opinion can be found at .

The Opinion of the Venice Commission took into account an amicus opinion written by a set of Hungarian constitutional experts, including University of Budapest professor Gábor Halmai, who will be a visiting researcher at Princeton in 2011-2012, and Professor Andrew Arato of the New School, who was a commentator on the April LAPA panel on the new Hungarian Constitution.      Their opinion can be found here. (PDF)

The Venice Commission had been asked by the Monitoring Committee of the European Parliamentary Assembly to review the new Constitution for compatibility with European principles of human rights, democracy and the rule of law.    The final version of the Hungarian Constitution in English, which is the version that the Commission examined, can be found here (PDF).