The collection of the principles and methods of constitutional interpretation laid down in the Fundamental Law

Unlike the old Constitution (of 1949/1989), the Fundamental Law of 2011 defines the major methods of constitutional interpretation. The relevant guidance is scattered around the constitutional text without any hierarchy of the different interpretive principles to be used.

Article N Section (1) declares that Hungary enforces ‘the principle of balanced, transparent and sustainable budget management’, while Section (3) makes respect for this principle the duty of- among others - the Constitutional Court.

According to Article R Section (3), the provisions of the Fundamental Law must be interpreted (a) ‘in accordance with their purposes’, (b) ‘with the Avowal of National Faith’, and (c) ‘with the achievements of our historical constitution’. Section (4) of the same Article states that ‘the protection of the constitutional identity and the Christian culture of Hungary shall be an obligation of every organ of the State’.

In Article I (3), the Fundamental Law further codified the basic rule of interpretation for conflicts involving fundamental rights:

The rules for fundamental rights and obligations shall be laid down in an Act. A fundamental right may only be restricted to allow the effective use of another fundamental right or to protect a constitutional value, to the extent absolutely necessary, proportionate to the objective pursued and with full respect for the essential content of that fundamental right.

It was not only the imposition of binding interpretative principles and methods which emerged as a constitutional means to influence the jurisdiction of the Constitutional Court, but also the provision of the Fourth Amendment to the Fundamental Law in March 2013, repealing (loosening the legal effect of) all Constitutional Court rulings made prior to the entry into force of the new Fundamental Law in 2012. The goal of this amendment was clearly to compel the Constitutional Court to change its jurisprudence, adapting it to the values of the Fundamental Law.

Furthermore, according to Article 28 of the Fundamental Law:

In the course of the application of law, courts shall interpret the text of laws primarily in accordance with their purposes and with the Fundamental Law. The purposes of the laws should be defined primarily in accordance with the preamble of the law and the official reasoning given to the law in the procedure of adaptation or the amendments. When interpreting the Fundamental Law or laws, it shall be presumed that

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Tfmea Drinoczi, Nora Chronowski, and Miklos Kocsis, ‘What Questions of Interpretation May Be Raised by the New Hungarian Constitution?’ (2012) 1 Vienna Journal on International Constitutional Law 41-64.

they serve moral and economic purposes which arc in accordance with common sense and the public good.

In other words, in the course of the constitutional review of judicial decisions, the Constitutional Court checks whether the court properly considered the objective purpose of the legal norms it had to apply in the specific case. This ‘objective purpose’ was first understood by the Constitutional Court as the social aim that the lawmaker wanted to achieve by the legal act, rather than the subjective and original intent of those who took part in the lawmaking process; but later, by the Seventh Amendment to the Fundamental Law in 2018, the text changed, and the constitution-making majority made it clear that this purpose is understood according to the legislator’s intention.

Due to the fact that there arc a variety of different methods of constitutional interpretation in theory, the Fundamental Law cannot give a closed list of the methods. It contains only a list of the preferred interpretative methods that must be taken into consideration for the decision.

 
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