Q&A on the upcoming amendment to Hungary’s Fundamental Law

On April 8th, Hungarian voters made it clear that they don’t want to see Hungary become an immigrant country and they reject the idea of being told who may be given the right to live in their own country. Responding to that mandate, the will of the people, the Hungarian government has recently submitted a proposed amendment to Hungary’s Fundamental Law. Here’s a look at the details.

What’s in the constitutional amendment?

The proposed amendment to the Fundamental Law covers five major topics. First of all, it extends the National Creed with an obligation for state bodies to protect Hungary’s constitutional identity and to preserve the country’s sovereignty. In particular, that concerns Hungary’s identity – our nation’s Christian identity – and sovereignty in Europe.

Secondly, regarding illegal immigration, the amendment inserts a clause that would prohibit the resettlement of foreigners to Hungary and therefore reinforces the common standard in international law that the state has the right to decide who can reside within its borders. The modification also declares that no asylum claim will be granted to those non-Hungarian individuals who arrived at the Hungarian border through a country where they were no longer subject to persecution or the direct threat of persecution.

The third topic covered by the proposal concerns the establishment of an Administrative High Court, an issue we have already covered here.

Furthermore, the amendment creates additional protection of the privacy of Hungarian people in response to recent developments (digitalization, new technologies, drones, etc.). This modification of Article 6 of the Fundamental Law includes enhanced protection for the privacy of homes. 

As a final measure, Article 22 of the constitution would be changed to oblige state bodies and municipalities to guarantee decent accommodation for all, while protecting public spaces. To that end, the proposal bans loitering or extended presence in public spaces.

That sounds like a ban on homelessness. Why is this necessary?

Hungary strives to ensure decent living conditions and access to public services for its citizens. At the same time, in cooperation with the municipalities, the government must protect public spaces and the human dignity of all Hungarians. Considering that currently the number of available shelter beds is sufficient to provide accommodation to those in need, a prohibition of habitual presence in public spaces can now be realistically adopted. This is a prohibition on what is sometimes referred to as urban camping or sleeping rough.

Does a ban like this exist in other European countries? 

A ban on sleeping rough is not without precedent in Europe. Several other EU member states have already passed certain regulations on the issue. Such behavior, for example, is sanctioned on a constitutional level in Cyprus and Malta. On top of this, there are many other countries (Austria, Belgium, Estonia etc.) where the question appears indirectly in the constitution.

Even if it’s not dealt with in the fundamental law, there are many states where habitual public space presence constitutes a violation of lower degree laws and regulations. Examples range from the UK and France through Germany and Belgium to Slovenia, where a 2006 law prohibits sleeping rough in places “which don’t serve this purpose and where it might disturb others.”