‘iPad constitution’ poses challenge to Hungary

iPad.jpg

The new Hungarian constitution will be ready on 15 March and will be adopted a month later, its main author, centre-right MEP József Szájer – who wrote part of it on his iPad – told EURACTIV in an interview. The country's opposition claims the procedure for adopting the new constitution is illegitimate and the controversy could impact upon the Hungarian EU Presidency.

Szájer, a prominent MEP from the Fidesz party of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and a vice-chair of the European People's Party, is leading a team of three parliamentarians in charge of writing the new constitution. The other two are Gergely Gulyás (Fidesz) and László Salamon (KDNP, a coalition partner of Fidesz).

Following general elections held in April 2010, Orbán said that voters had carried out a "revolution" by giving his party two thirds of the seats in parliament to rebuild Hungary after a near financial collapse. Since then, the Hungarian constitution has been amended ten times and the powers of the Constitutional Court have been curtailed by the ruling Fidesz-KDNP majority.

Szájer claims that he was not appointed by the Fidesz government, but instead at the demand of opposition parties.

In Hungary, the government does not propose to redraft the constitution, nor does it participate in the drafting process. Responsibility instead lies with members of parliament. Indeed, MPs want to keep this right for themselves, and so they have asked the government for help with codification but not on substance, he explained.

The opposition parties, as Szájer called them, objected to the procedure according to which Fidesz and its sister party KDNP wanted to create a constitution. The Socialists said the procedure was unconstitutional and illegitimate, and they refused to participate in the making of a constitution that in their view will be no more than a party-political constitution of Fidesz.

The LMP (Greens) share Fidesz's conviction that a new constitution is necessary, but also see the current process as illegitimate and they are not participating its drafting either.

The only opposition party to participate in the process is nationalist party Jobbik, which has its own agenda: it sees the process as an opportunity to officially present its view that the constitution of the Hungarian Kingdom, abolished in 1944, should be restored.

That constitution contains an implicit territorial claim toward the lost countries of the Hungarian Holy Crown, meaning Transylvania in Romania and Croatia. Jobbik plans to present its views in the form of amendments to the Fidesz-KDNP draft.

Szájer gave assurances that the new constitution would introduce changes regarding his country's legal relations with the EU. Asked there would be any changes in relation to European law, he replied: there are none.

"We'll keep the guarantees that we have already included in the previous constitution in 2004," said Szájer, who has previous experience of constitutional affairs gained during his country's transition to democracy in 1989.

Szájer revealed that there had been a massive reaction to his decision to write on his blog that he had been writing the constitution on his iPad. One section of the draft, which he remembers having written on the train between Brussels and Strasbourg, happens to contain most of the constitution's preamble.

To read the full text of the interview, please click here.

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