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EU urges Hungary to revise constitution

The new Hungarian constitution needs more explicit fundamental rights protections, and should therefore be revised, the European Parliament said in a resolution passed on Tuesday.

The new Hungarian constitution, adopted in April of this year, should explicitly protect all fundamental civil and social rights, says a resolution presented by the S&D, ALDE, Greens/EFA and GUE/NGL groups, and adopted by Parliament on Tuesday by 331 votes to 274 with 54 abstentions. These rights include the ban on the death penalty and on life imprisonment without parole, and the prohibition on discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation.

The Commission should conduct a thorough review of the new constitution, and check whether it is consistent with the letter and spirit of EU Treaties and the Charter of Fundamental Rights, says the text.

Hungarians abroad

The Hungarian authorities should also "explicitly guarantee in the Constitution, including its preamble, that Hungary will respect the territorial integrity of other countries when seeking the support of ethnic Hungarians living abroad," reads the resolution. This is an issue of quite some importance to Hungary's neighbors, some of whom have significant Hungarian minorities living within their borders.

Cardinal laws and the judiciary

The Constitutional Court's power to review any budget-related legislation without exception should be reinstated, according to the resolution, and the lowering of judges' retirement ages and the mandate of the Budget Council should be revised. As for the forthcoming adoption of cardinal laws - those requiring a 2/3 majority in the Parliament to adopt or to modify - MEPs call for a broad public debate and consensus. They also argue that these should only set the basic scope of tax laws, pension systems, family policy and other issue areas, so that future elected governments would be given the chance to change them, if they wish.

Background

The new Hungarian constitution was adopted by its Parliament on 18 April of this year. The Venice Commission, an advisory body to the Council of Europe on constitutional matters, just released an opinion on the new Hungarian constitution in late June. It makes several recommendations regarding the text, many of which were echoed in the Parliament's resolution adopted today. Parliament had already debated the issue in its June plenary session in Strasbourg, but had postponed the vote on a resolution to wait for the publication of this opinion. The constitution also figured in today's debate with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.