How qualified will the new judges in the Hungarian Constitutional Court be?:The cases of Péter Szalay andEgon Dienes-Oehm

Péter Szalay is a lawyer who has worked in an attorney-client relationship with the top brass of the Fidesz leadership for over ten years. This relationship might cause some eyebrows to be raised about Szalay's suitability for the post.

Although Szalay published a few short articles on the constitution, he is first and foremost a practicing lawyer and as such it is almost impossible to gain an accurate picture of his legal philosophy. There is, for example, the issue of the freedom of speech. He represented Viktor Orbán in a case in which Orbán sued former minister of finance János Veres who told a reporter that if it depended on Viktor Orbán he would steal the entire IMF loan Hungary just received. Orbán lost. Szalay also represented the Fidesz politicians who dismantled the barrier on Kossuth tér. In this instance Szalay won the case. However, from the two cases we can't draw any conclusion about Szalay's views on the freedom of speech because in the first instance he argued on the basis of a very narrow definition while in the second instance he defined freedom of speech so broadly that it would also include removing legally erected barriers.

As far as his writings are concerned, in 2005 in Élet és Irodalom he wrote in defense of the 1989 Constitution against a legal scholar who was advocating the creation of a new one. In this article he argued that Hungary's "constitutional problems wouldn't be solved by coming up 'quickly' with a new constitution…. Most likely no new constitution will be born until there is societal demand for one because only in such a case will there be the desired consensus within parliament…. In the near future there is not much hope for the birth of a new constitution–and perhaps it is best this way."

It seems that in order to serve on the Constitutional Court Szalay no longer feels the way he did in 2005.

Egon DienesOehm is the candidate of the Christian Democrats. The party nominated him earlier when parliament elected István Stumpf and Mihály Bihari. Then the Christian Democrats' faithful partner, Fidesz, refused to oblige. Now they agreed to consider him but the gesture is rather insignificant. DienesOehm is almost 67 years old and thus in three years he will have to retire.

Dienes-Oehm spent more than ten years in public administration and since 1997 he has also been teaching at the Catholic University. He has published profusely–mostly on European integration, institutions of the European Union, and European commercial law. He has not published anything on constitutional law. Therefore we cannot even guess his philosophy on constitutional matters.

Because of his knowledge of international law one could ask him about the slight change of wording in the passage that deals with not being able to hold referendums on "valid international obligations" in the current constitution and the absence of the adjective "valid" in the new one. Could it be that in the future no referendum can be held even on the confirmation of international agreements? For example, in the case of Hungary's adherence to NATO. Another possible question is whether the interpretation of the freedom of speech of the Hungarian Constitutional Court is in agreement with Hungary's international obligations. And finally it would be interesting to know what he thinks about the passage in the preamble about the historical constitution and how it might affect the interpretation of basic rights. 

I am leaving the most outrageous nominee, István Balsai, for another day. Stay tuned.

 

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Paul
Guest

Éva, apologies in advance that my only comment on this article is going to be way off topic.
My wife has just mentioned something interesting. I asked her how the Chinese love-in was going down at home and she passed over this pretty quickly (I’m not actually sure she knew what I meant), but she did tell me – with pride – that OV was imposing a special tax on “non-healthy” foods, such as MacDonald’s burgers, etc.
Anyone else heard of this or can give any more detail?
It struck me as quite funny that a country with such an appallingly unhealthy diet (fat, salt, sugar, and more fat) should feel itself in a position to criticise MacDonald’s.
Hungary must be one of the few countries where it would actually be healthier to switch to a diet of fast food!

Jim
Guest

Yes, it’s going to be a salt-and-sugar tax. Originally it was expected to be a burger tax, but apparently that has changed. They are saying the potato-chip makers and the like will immediately cut a few thousand jobs in Hungary. And of course the poor will pay disproportionately, since this is a flat tax.
I don’t know why there isn’t a Pick salami tax. That stuff will really kill you.

Jim
Guest

(An article in today’s nol.hu says they’re still working out what items the tax will apply to:
http://nol.hu/gazdasag/tovabbi_termekekre_is_kivetnek_a_chipszadot
As I recall, energy drinks fall under this category, and they are considering applying it to caffeine drinks as well. Huge mistake! If there’s one thing Hungary desperately needs, it’s a more active and motivated populace.)

Paul
Guest

Interesting for a country where it’s almost impossible to buy suger-free fizzy drinks in most shops. And where iced tea (full of sugar) seems to be the staple drink from ages baby upwards.
Taxing MacDonald’s etc for sugar and salt where the average cook puts vast quantities of both in just about every thing she/he cooks (whether needed or not!), is pushing the Fidesz irony-meter off the scale.
What about butter, while they’re at it? My wife puts so much butter on vegetables that you can’t taste which vegetable is which!

Ron
Guest

Here is another article (in Dutch) about this tax.
http://www.scribblesfromhungary.com/2011/06/hongarije-voert-hamburgerbelasting-in.html
Just use google translate.
About a potential other curious “tax” is extreme tax. It is actually not a tax, but you need to pay extra in Hospital or other medical treatment if you have injuries caused by extreme activities. What is extreme I do not know. It is just a plan.
The Hungarians must hate themsleves that they voted down the HUF 300 per doctors visit in a referendum. I wonder if they would voted down these recent tax and labour laws.
Furthermore, I wonder how long this tax will last. I assume that most Hungarians will go over the border for their weekly shoppings. You could see the effect when the sugar prices went through the roof.

Ron
Guest

Sorry Eva there is simply not too much to say about these judges.
I was just wondering if Peter Szalay becomes judge, does it mean that he cannot act as lawyer for Fidesz/VO? I assume that have a replacement for him.
Or did he become judge as a promotion, so that he cannot testify in court later on?

Paul
Guest

Thanks for the links, Jim and Ron (Lolka Bolka!). The Dutch article is quite funny (even in translaton) – e.g. the remark about the Jobbik doctor.
Jim’s link contains an interesting comment too – the apparent intention to extend the tax to sugar-free drinks. So, you pay tax on both highly sugared drinks AND low-calorie ones. Quite what message are they trying to get across there??
Sorry, Éva, I didn’t mean to hijack the entire thread like this.

Member

Well, screw the judges. They were confirmed 2 hours ago.
I’m wondering what’s healthier, a burger or the “pacal pörkölt” ?

Paul
Guest

They’d better not tax lángos!

Jim
Guest

No tax, but they’re considering forced labor for eating lángos.

Paul
Guest

A hot day at the strand, lángos with tejföl and a cold beer…
Can even OV ruin that?

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