Opposition MPs protest in Hungarian Parliament against amending the constitution | Szilárd Koszticsák / MTI

Hungarian constitution amended despite EU concerns

March 11, 2013

Deputies of Hungary’s ruling Fidesz party approved a set of changes to the country's constitution which critics, including the European Union's executive and several member-state foreign ministers, say pose a danger to democracy and the rule of law.

One of the changes passed by parliament this Monday, where PM Viktor Orbán's Fidesz party has a two-thirds majority, means that the constitutional court will no longer be able to void a law endorsed with a two-thirds parliamentary majority and enshrined in the constitution. This is another step in recent legislations to upset the principle of checks and balances, a basic norm of democracy.

The changes introduced by Orbán have evoked concern and criticism from the European Union (several member states and personally from EU executive José Manuel Barroso) as well as the American government. As a partial response to these concerns, Hungarian Foreign Minister János Martonyi told reporters in Brussels on Monday that the government would ask the Venice Commission, an advisory body to the Council of Europe, to give its opinion on the 15-page amendment.

The opposition – and most Western analysts – views these changes that Viktor Orbán deliberately destroys all controls that could limit his political power and his aspirations to win the national elections due in 2014. Fidesz leaders insist that Hungarian and international cristics simply misunderstand their intentions.

Prior to the vote on Monday, European Commission (EC) spokeswoman Pia Ahrenkilde Hansen told a daily press briefing in Brussels that the EC will have a response once they see what the result of the vote is, and made it clear that the Commission will not hesitate to act should Hungary fail to comply with EU law.

Also before the vote of the expected outcome, the German news magazine 'Der Spiegel' - timing its article to the visit to Berlin of the Hungarian President János Áder, who is also a Fidesz member - wrote that with these amendments, "Hungary would say good-bye to being a legal state" and the changes serve the purpose of Viktor Orbán "massively increasing its power."


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