What is the Fundamental Law?

The Constitution is the basic statute of the State, the highest level legal norm in Hungary, and it contains the most important regulations related to the structure and operation of the State. Since the Constitution is the highest norm in Hungary is, no legislation may be adopted that stands in contradiction to its contents. The Fundamental Law is the foundation of the Hungarian legal system. The Fundamental Law and legislative regulations are binding to all persons. The provisions of the Constitution must be interpreted in accordance with their purposes, the National Avowal and the achievements of our historical Constitution.

A commemorative edition of Hungary's Fundamental Law

When was the Fundamental Law adopted?

On 18 April 2011, Parliament adopted Hungary's new Fundamental Law, which was ceremonially signed by President Pál Schmitt on 25 April 2011, Easter Monday. The text of the new norm came into effect on 1 January 2012. The new Fundamental Law overruled the former Hungarian Constitution, which was adopted by Parliament in its original form on 18 August 1949, and which was modeled on the 1936 Soviet Constitution. This became Statute XX (1949). Although the Constitution was amended several times between 1949 and 1989, with fundamental and radical changes included in 1989, Statute XX (1949) remained the Constitution of Hungary until January 2012.

Why was a new Fundamental Law needed?

First of all, by adopting the new Fundamental Law, Hungary also closed the door on the past in a symbolical sense, since our country was the last one among the states of the former communist bloc to replace its Soviet model-based constitution. The new Constitution opened a new chapter in the history of the country. The former fundamental law, issued in 1949, has now been replaced by a Constitution written by Hungary itself, committed to both national and European values.

Secondly, it creates the constitutional guarantees required for economic renewal and for reducing and controlling the national debt. Consequently, the aim of the new Hungarian Constitution is not primarily to alter the system of public law, but rather the economic and intellectual renewal of the country after twenty years searching for the right path.

What is the content of the Fundamental Law?

The Constitution determines the most important segments of the Hungarian social-political-economic apparatus. It consists of five parts, in the following order: Preamble (National Avowal), Basic Principles (form of state, territorial structure, symbols, holidays, European integration, Hungarians beyond the borders and people of various nationalities living in Hungary), Freedom and Responsibility (constitutional fundamental rights), The State (see under constitutional framework), and Special Legislation (extraordinary situations).

The Fundamental Law begins with the National Avowal, which determines the position of Hungary within western civilization, and recalls those intellectual values and historical facts that are outstanding in the history of our country. The Constitution denies any statute of limitation for crimes against humanity committed against the Hungarian nation and its citizens under the national socialist and communist dictatorships. The Preamble refers to the fact that our current liberty was born from our Revolution in 1956. It highlights the importance of our struggles for freedom and independence.

By adopting the new Constitution, Hungary is strengthening its commitment towards the rule of law and the values of democracy, is retaining the traditions of Hungarian parliamentarianism within the framework of the republican form of state, and is preserving the long-standing institutions of the current state structure. At the same time, compared to the former regulations, it broadens the opportunities for reviewing the constitutionality of laws, so-called preliminary norm control. During the course of posterior norm control, the Constitutional Court will also have the opportunity to review concrete court verdicts with regard to fundamental rights. In accordance with the norms of the rule of law, the Constitution guarantees the independent and interference-free functioning of the judiciary. A unified and efficient ombudsman office is established, which also protects the rights of minorities. In the budget adoption process – in the interests of controlling public debt – the Budgetary Council receives the right of veto.

The Constitution expresses Hungary’s commitment towards the common constitutional values and traditions of the European Union, sets the individual and collective rights of its citizens (regardless of which nationality they belong to), and determines fundamental human rights in the spirit of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. In addition to fundamental rights, the new constitution also determines obligations. It expresses that our principle common values are: the family, order, the home, work and health. The constitution highlights the importance of protecting families and human life.

The Constitution declares both in its Preamble and in its norm text that the nationalities living in Hungary are part of the Hungarian political community and are constituent parts of the State.

The new Constitution expresses that Hungarians living beyond the country's borders are full members of Hungarian society.

Due to the controls on public debt, future generations have received constitutional protection; no generation can consume the next generation’s future. Although, in accordance with the will of the people, extra voting rights for those with children was not included in the Constitution, the acknowledgement of raising children and the responsibilities of parents are strongly present, along with the principle according to which, in the case of families with children, the degree of burden-sharing must be determined while taking into account the expenses related to raising children.

The Constitution contains a new, emphatic chapter on public finances.

The new Fundamental Law will be appended with numerous cardinal laws, which will regulate the individual fields in detail, such as laws regarding local governments, the election of Members of Parliament, the protection of families, state assets, efficient state management and budgetary responsibility. The cardinal laws will be legislated by Parliament during 2012.

A commemorative edition of Hungary's Fundamental Law

Fundamental Law be amended, and by whom?

Proposals for the adoption or amendment of the Fundamental Law may be submitted by the President of the Republic, the Government, or any Parliamentary Committee or Member of Parliament. The adoption or amendment of the Fundamental Law requires a vote in favour by Members of Parliament by a majority of two-thirds. The Speaker of the House shall sign the Fundamental Law or its amendment and send it the President of the Republic. The President of the Republic shall sign the Constitution adopted by the National Assembly and shall order its publication in the Official Gazette within five days of receipt.