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Top Hungary court rejects appeal to block constitution changes

23 May 2013, 15:04 CET
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Top Hungary court rejects appeal to block constitution changes

Photo © Yanchenko - Fotolia

(BUDAPEST) - Hungary's constitutional court threw out Tuesday an appeal by the country's parliamentary ombudsman to annul a controversial set of constitutional changes which have drawn ire from the EU.

The so-called "fourth amendment" -- which among other things curbs the powers of the constitutional court and reinstates controversial measures its judges had ruled void -- was approved by Hungary's parliament in March and came into force on April 1.

On April 23, ombudsman Mate Szabo said the legislation was unconstitutional on both content and procedural grounds and asked the court to annul it.

In a ruling published on its website, the court said that the ombudsman's objections on procedural grounds was unfounded, and said it had no authority to review the content of the amendment.

The amendment triggered protests in Hungary from critics who said it accelerated an assault on democratic structures begun by Prime Minister Viktor Orban's right-wing government after it won a landslide election in 2010.

The amendment has also been criticised in Washington as well as Brussels who said the changes could be incompatible with EU legislation and the rule of law.

In a letter to Orban on April 12, European Commission head Jose Manuel Barroso expressed his "serious concerns" over the changes and warned Hungary that it faced possible sanctions.

Last week, New York-based rights watchdog Human Rights Watch urged the EU to put more pressure on Hungary including a possible suspension of voting rights to bring the country into line with EU law.

Orban's Fidesz party enjoys a two-thirds parliamentary majority and has insisted there is no ground for concern and that the "fourth amendment" is mostly technical.

Antal Rogan, head of the parliamentary group of Fidesz, said that Tuesday's ruling finally closed the debate on the legality of the constitution.

"From now on, no-one should be in any doubt that the constitution has been legally accepted," he said in a statement to the news agency MTI.

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