UPDATE: An Introduction to Hungarian Law Research
By Viktor Zoltán Kazai
Viktor Zoltán Kazai is a doctoral candidate at Central European University (CEU) with an LL.M. degree from CEU, a master’s degree from Panthéon-Assas, and a J.D. from Eötvös Loránd University. His main areas of interest are comparative constitutional law, especially the judicial review of the parliamentary lawmaking process, and the rule of law backsliding in Hungary analyzed in the European context. Before starting his academic career, Mr. Kazai worked in the field of human rights protection, namely in the Hungarian Helsinki Committee. During his doctoral studies he interned in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and the Court of Justice of the EU. He is a member of the editorial board of the Hungarian Law Journal Fundamentum and a permanent contributor for the Italian review Osservatorio Sulle Fonti. Mr. Kazai is also involved in several research projects focusing on the challenges to the rule of law and democracy in the European Union. Besides his academic research and teaching activities, Mr. Kazai regularly publishes short blogposts, usually on Verfassungsblog, and has a podcast on illiberalism in Hungary.
NOTE: This article is a complete rewrite of the original by Zsuzsanna Antal.
Published May/June 2022
Table of Contents
- 1. Introduction
- 2. The State
- 3. Sources of Law
- 4. The Legal Profession
- 5. Research Sources
The constitution of the country is the Fundamental Law of Hungary (Magyarország Alaptörvénye), which clearly states that Hungary (Magyarország) is a republic based on popular sovereignty. Popular sovereignty is exercised primarily through representative organs, most importantly through the National Assembly (Országgyűlés) which is the only political body directly elected by the people. The Hungarian political system has an overwhelmingly representative character, although the means of direct democracy, most notably the referendum, are also regulated by the Fundamental Law (Alaptörvény).
Hungary belongs to the group of parliamentary systems. The government (i.e., the executive) necessarily enjoys the support of the parliamentary majority because the National Assembly elects the Prime Minister (miniszterelnök), and the government (kormány) is answerable to the parliament. This creates a strong link between the two branches of political power. In addition, the members of the government and the majority of MPs usually come from same political party (or coalition of parties) and the Hungarian party system is characterized by strong party discipline.
Hungary is a unitary state without any significant politically autonomous communities organized on a territorial basis. Hungary has 19 counties (megye) and 3154 municipalities (település), so a large number of local governments operate on a sub-national level. However, a clear trend towards recentralisation, significant interference by the State in municipal functions, and a lack of financial resources available to local authorities have been detected in recent years.
Hungary is a sovereign country, but it is a member of many international organizations, most importantly the United Nations (UN), the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the World Trade Organization (WTO) the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and the Council of Europe (CoE). In the 2004 Hungary joined the European Union. Article E (2) of the Fundamental Law provides that Hungary may, to the extent necessary, exercise some of its competences jointly with other Member States through the institutions of the EU. However, it is also stipulated that the exercise of competences shall comply with the constitutional catalogue of fundamental rights and shall not limit the inalienable right of Hungary to determine its territorial unity, population, form of government, and state structure. The European Union has sui generis legal order. EU law has direct and indirect effect on the laws of its Member States and becomes part of their legal system (See section 3.2).
After the change of regime in 1989/90, Hungary was considered to be the valedictorian of new democracies in Central and Eastern Europe. The transition from a one-party dictatorship to a pluralist democracy, from socialist state capitalism to liberal market capitalism and other radical changes had had both very positive and extremely negative consequences for the Hungarian society, but the ideal of constitutionalism was not seriously challenged by the political elite. Since 2010, however, democracy and the rule of law have been constantly deteriorating to such an extent that in the mainstream literature Hungary is no longer categorized as a constitutional democracy, but as a sort of transitional state moving towards an authoritarian regime.
2. The State
The Hungarian legislature is called the National Assembly (Országgyűlés). It is the only constitutional organ which is directly elected by the people, so Article 1 of the Fundamental Law calls it “the supreme organ of popular representation”. The National Assembly is a unicameral legislature which means that it has only one chamber.
Hungary has a complicated mixed parliamentary electoral system which contains both majoritarian and proportional elements. The electoral system went through major reforms in recent years. The National Assembly has 199 members: 106 of them are elected in individual constituencies in one round by the plurality of voters, 93 MPs receive their mandate from national party lists. MPs are elected for four years. Every Hungarian citizen at the age of 18 and over has the right to vote and to be elected; however, Hungarian citizens not permanently residing in Hungary can only vote for party lists. Separate rules apply to the parliamentary representation of national minorities.
The National Assembly has the competence to adopt constitutional amendments and to enact a new constitution. According to Article S, the Fundamental Law may be amended or replaced with a new constitution by the two-thirds majority of the National Assembly upon the proposal of the President of the Republic, the Government, a parliamentary committee, or a member of parliament. No other procedural requirements are stipulated by the Fundamental Law, so it is a relatively easily amendable constitution.
The National Assembly has a legislative function: as a default rule it passes laws with the absolute majority of its members (50% + 1) in a relatively simple legislative process (refer also to the following chart). Even though the preparation of legislation and the parliamentary process are regulated by law, procedural irregularities occur relatively often. Just like in every parliamentary system, the law-making process is dominated by the government, but in Hungary this dominance has become excessive after 2010. The Fundamental Law explicitly stipulates that certain legislative matters shall be regulated in cardinal acts (sarkalatos törvény) that may only be adopted and amended by the two-thirds (qualified) majority of MPs (see also section 3.2).
The Government is answerable to the National Assembly, so the parliament also has a control function. The MPs can withdraw their support from the government by way of a constructive vote of no confidence, whereby an absolute majority of parliamentarians may vote the government out of office by simultaneously electing a new head of government. Besides the usual tools of control (e.g., questions, interpellations, committee hearings etc.), the National Assembly can also monitor the executive branch through specialized institutions such as the State Audit Office (Állami Számvevőszék) and the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights (Alapvető Jogok Biztosa).
Finally, let us mention that many important actors of the system of checks and balances are elected by the National Assembly (usually by the two-thirds majority of its members), such as the President of the Republic, the President of the Supreme Court, the President of the National Office for the Judiciary, the Prosecutor General, the members and the President of the Constitutional Court, the Parliamentary Commissioner for Fundamental Rights, the President of the State Audit Office, the President of the Media Council.
The government (kormány) is at the top of the executive branch. It is headed by the Prime Minister who is elected by the National Assembly upon the proposal of the President of the Republic. The government consists of the Prime Minister and the ministers. Hungary is often labelled as a “chancellor democracy” due to the strong position of the Prime Minister in the government. The ministers are appointed by the President of the Republic upon the proposal of the Prime Minister. It logically follows from these rules that the government is answerable to the parliament as a collective entity.
Each ministry is headed by a minister. There are relatively few ministries in Hungary, but there is large number of secretaries of state who are the deputies of the ministers. The ministers direct the public service system. The government (as a collective entity), the Prime Minister and the ministers have the competence to issue decrees (see section 3.2).
2.3. Head of State
The President of the Republic (köztársasági elnök) is the head of the Hungarian state who is elected by the National Assembly for five years. The President has a rather symbolic position, they are usually not involved in everyday party politics. Its most important mission is to embody the unity of the nation and be the guardian of the democratic functioning of the state. Accordingly, most of their competencies are ceremonial. However, the President has certain important powers as well. For example, the National Assembly elects the Prime Minister upon the proposal of the President. The President may dissolve the National Assembly in certain circumstances. What is even more significant probably is the President’s role in the legislative process. The President has the right to send back to the National Assembly an adopted legislative act for further consideration (political veto) or to initiate a preliminary constitutional review (constitutional veto). The President may also exercise their constitutional veto to challenge the amendments to the Fundamental Law on procedural grounds. Bills may only enter into force if signed and promulgated by the President in the Official Gazette (Magyar Közlöny).
In Hungary there is one unified judicial system, even though the internal organization of the judiciary mirrors the allocation of the judicial tasks based on the distinction between private law, criminal law, and administrative and labor law. The judiciary has a four-level hierarchical structure, with 113 district courts (járásbíróság), 20 regional courts (törvényszék), 5 regional courts of appeal (ítélőszék) and a Supreme Court (Kúria). Judges are appointed by the President of the Republic for life (see section 4.2). The President of the Kúria (the Chief Justice), however, is elected by the two-thirds majority of the National Assembly.
The Kúria, as the highest instance judicial forum in Hungary, has the constitutional duty to ensure the uniform application of the law by delivering uniformity decisions (jogegységi határozat) which are binding on every Hungarian court. In addition, due a recent legislative amendment a ‘limited precedent system’ has been introduced which has significantly increased the power of the Kúria to influence the jurisprudence of lower instance courts.
The National Office for the Judiciary (Országos Bírósági Hivatal) is the central administrative body of the judiciary. Its president has very broad powers in the administration of the judicial system, most notably in the appointment of court leaders. The President of the NOJ is supervised by the National Judicial Council (Országos Bírói Tanács), the representative body of the judiciary. Several legislative and political measures have been implemented in recent years that have put the independence of the judiciary in danger.
2.5. Constitutional Court
Hungary follows the centralized model of constitutional adjudication, so constitutional review is carried out by a separate organ which is not considered to be part of the judiciary. The members of the Constitutional Court (Alkotmánybíróság) and its President are elected by the National Assembly with a two-thirds majority of the votes. The most important function of this organ is to check the constitutionality of parliamentary legislative acts and judicial decisions delivered in individual cases.
The character of constitutional review has significantly changed due to some legislative reforms: (i) the primary objective of judicial scrutiny has become the protection of fundamental rights in individual cases instead of the monitoring of the legal system, and (ii) the Constitutional Court has shifted the focus of its attention from the control of the political branches to the supervision of the ordinary courts.
The independence of the Constitutional Court has been seriously called into question in the last few years as it has become increasingly deferential to the governing majority in power after the implementation of several legislative measures.
2.6. National Human Rights Institutions
Besides the judiciary and the Constitutional Court, Hungary used to have several National Human Rights Institutions. Due to many changes in the regulation, the Parliamentary Commissioner for Fundamental Rights (Ombudsman) has become the main NHRI in Hungary because the previously separate Equal Treatment Authority and the Independent Police Complaints Board have been integrated into the Ombudsman’ Office.
There is one general Ombudsman who has a deputy for national minorities and another one for future generations. The Ombudsman is charged with monitoring the system of public administration to detect serious fundamental rights violations and to deal with individual complaints. The Ombudsman also has the right to challenge parliamentary acts at the Constitutional Court. In addition, the Ombudsman’s Office carries out the activities of the National Preventive Mechanism. The Ombudsman is regularly criticized by Hungarian NGOs for its failure to fulfill its constitutional obligation. There used be a separate Ombudsman in charge of data protection, but due to a legislative reform put in place in 2012 (and eventually found contrary to EU law) this task belongs to the newly established National Authority for Data Protection and Freedom of Information.
2.7. Non-State Actors
In the last few years, the media sector has been completely re-regulated by the government and the media landscape has changed to a significant extent. The Hungarian government is often criticized by scholars, as well as national and international organizations (for example Mérték, the European Federation of Journalists, or the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion or expression) for the adoption of legislative measures and political practices restricting media freedom. In addition, it is often noted with concern that media ownership is heavily concentrated in the hands of businesses with close ties to the government. The National Media and Telecommunications Agency and the Media Council are in charge of supervising the media in Hungary.
NGOs constitute a very important part of the Hungarian legal and political landscape. These organizations are particularly active in the field of human rights protection and their activities include, among others, information campaigns, field work, advocacy, consultation, and the representation of victims of human rights violations before Hungarian authorities and ordinary courts, the Constitutional Court, and the European Court of Human Rights. In recent years the Hungarian government put in place many controversial legislative measures targeting NGOs and restricting the freedom of civil society as such. The Court of Justice of the European Union has already found many pieces of these legislative acts contrary to EU law (see in particular cases no. C-821/19, C-808/18, and C-78/18).
The most important NGOs specialized in law and human rights protection are:
- The Hungarian Helsinki Committee provides help to refugees, detainees, and victims of law enforcement violence.
- The Hungarian Civil Liberties Union work for the enforcement of human rights in a wide range of areas.
- The Háttér Society is the largest and oldest currently operating LGBTQ+ organization in Hungary.
- The Women for Women Together Against Violence Association (NANE) was established with the aim to fight violence against women and children in Hungary.
- The Streetlawyer Association provides free legal aid to people in need, primarily to homeless people.
- Amnesty International has a very active Hungarian office as well.
- Transparency International Hungary is one of the most important anti-corruption NGOs in the country together with Átlátszó, which specializes in investigative journalism.
- Center for Independent Journalism is a non-profit organization committed to promoting free and independent media.
- The Cordelia Foundation is an internationally accredited health service provider in Hungary that works directly with survivors of torture from the asylum seeker and refugee community.
- The European Roma Rights Center is an international public interest law organization, which monitors the human rights situation of Roma and provides legal defense in cases of human rights abuse.
- The Hungarian Business Leaders Forum (HBLF) is a nonprofit association committed to promote responsible business practices that benefit business and society.
- Shelter Foundation is a social organization providing help for homeless people in Budapest.
- The Roma Press Center (RPC) is an independent news agency which informs the public through the mainstream media about the news and events of the Roma community.
3. Sources of Law
3.1. Hungarian Constitution
The first written constitution in the history of Hungary was adopted in 1949 (Act XX of 1949 on the Constitution of the Hungarian People’s Republic). After the fall of the socialist dictatorship in 1989, the constitutional text went through a comprehensive revision, with the goal of laying the foundations of a modern European constitutional democracy based on the rule of law. The extent of the revision was so significant that many scholars would refer to the constitutional text as the ‘Constitution of ‘89’. The previous constitution was replaced by the Fundamental Law of Hungary (Magyarország Alaptörvénye), which entered into force on 1 January 2012. Both the enactment process and the substance of the new constitution sparked heated scholarly debate. Article R (3) of the Fundamental Law stipulates that “The provisions of the Fundamental Law shall be interpreted in accordance with […] the achievements of our historical constitution.” This provision creates a legal basis for the indirect application of the historical constitution through the case law of the Constitutional Court.
3.2. Types of Law and the Competent Organs
The Fundamental Law as “the foundation of the legal system of Hungary” [see Article R (1)] is at the top of the hierarchy of norms. According to Article S, the Fundamental Law may be amended or replaced with a new constitution by the two-thirds majority of the National Assembly upon the proposal of the President of the Republic, the Government, a parliamentary committee or a member of parliament. The Constitutional Court has the competence to review the constitutional amendment or the constitution making process upon the petition of the President of the Republic.
The Fundamental Law provides an exhaustive list of laws (or “general rules having binding force”) applicable in Hungary and clearly regulates their hierarchy. Lower-level laws must not be contrary to superior norms:
- Fundamental law
- Parliamentary acts
- Government decrees and the decrees of the President of the Hungarian National Bank,
- Prime ministerial and ministerial decrees
- Decrees of the heads of independent regulatory organs
- Local government decrees
There are two types of parliamentary acts: ordinary and so-called ‘cardinal’ acts (sarkalatos törvény). The Fundamental Law explicitly stipulates that certain legislative matters shall only be regulated in cardinal acts that are adopted and amended by the two-thirds (qualified) majority of MPs. There is no hierarchical relationship between ordinary and cardinal acts.
The European Union has sui generis legal order. EU law has direct or indirect effect on the laws of its Member States and becomes part of their legal system. Article E (3) of the Fundamental Law creates a legal basis for the recognition and the applicability of EU law in Hungary. What the Fundamental Law does not regulate explicitly, however, is the hierarchy between EU law and Hungarian domestic legislation, including the Fundamental Law itself. This hierarchical relationship has become a controversial issue in last few years due to the recent jurisprudence of the Constitutional Court which found that in certain circumstances EU law may be declared contrary to the Fundamental Law [see in particular Decision no. 22/2016. (XII. 5.) and Decision no. 2/2019. (III. 5.).
According to Article Q of the Fundamental Law, the generally recognized rules of international law are parts of the Hungarian legal order without any transposition. However, all the other sources of international law become part of the Hungarian legal system by promulgation in the form of a parliamentary act or a government decree.
3.3. Court Decisions
Hungary is a civil law jurisdiction, so judicial case law is not considered to be an official source of law. Nevertheless, the Supreme Court (Kúria), as the highest instance judicial forum in Hungary, has the constitutional duty to ensure the uniform application of the law by delivering uniformity decisions (jogegységi határozat) which are binding on every Hungarian court. In addition, due a recent legislative amendment a ‘limited precedent system’ has been introduced which has significantly increased the power of the Kúria to influence the jurisprudence of lower instance courts.
4. The Legal Profession
4.1. Education and Qualifications
University Degree: There is a centralized university application process that is based primarily on students’ performance in high school: their grades and the results of their school leaving exam. This means that law schools do not have any kind of separate application process.
The following Hungarian universities have a faculty of law:
- Eötvös Loránd University (ELTE) (Budapest)
- Károli Gáspár University of the Reformed Church (Budapest)
- Péter Pázmány Catholic University (Budapest)
- University of Debrecen
- University of István Széchenyi (Győr)
- University of Miskolc
- University of Pécs
- University of Szeged
Most of the universities used to be state-owned institutions. However, due to a controversial reform recently adopted by the parliament, several higher education institutions have been transferred to quasi-public foundations established and funded primarily by the state.
Law is one of the very few fields in which the bachelor’s and master’s programs are not divided. The law faculties offer only undivided master’s degree programs that are five years long. Students are required to familiarize themselves with every main area of law as well as with the most relevant fields of science (e.g., economics, statistics, legal philosophy, legal history, legal sociology, etc.). There is very limited room for specialization because students are trained to be generalist law professionals. The legal education focuses primarily on written law and (to a certain extent) case law.
Students receive their law degree after having passed the state exams (államvizsga) at the end of the program in the following five fields: private law, criminal law, constitutional law, administrative law and European Union law or legal philosophy. After having successfully completed law school, graduates obtain the standard degree to practice law in Hungary: Juris Doctor (JD).
Those who wish to have an academic career can continue their studies in a Ph.D. program. Each faculty of law has a doctoral school, and the doctoral students are affiliated with specific departments. Traditionally Hungarian law schools teach not only law, but also government studies. However, there is one higher education institution which is specifically dedicated to government studies: the University of Public Service (Ludovika).
Certain law schools offer LL.M. programs in English:
- Eötvös Loránd University: European and International Business Law, European Human Rights, and International and European Taxation
- Károli Gáspár University of the Reformed Church: European and International Business Law
- University of Szeged: International and European Trade and Investment Law
The Andrássy University Budapest is a foreign higher education institution accredited in Germany that offers law degree programs in German. Central European University is an American private higher education institution accredited in the State of New York that operated in Hungary for almost 30 years, but it had to relocate its teaching activities to Vienna due to a legislative amendment enacted in 2017 (see section 5.5).
Bar Exam: The successful completion of the bar exam (szakvizsga) is necessary to become a qualified legal professional who is entitled to practice law on their own right. To become eligible for the bar exam, candidates must spend at least three years training in any field of the legal profession: for example as junior attorneys in a law firm, trainee legal counsels in a corporation, legal officers in an NGO, etc. There is only one standard bar exam which covers every main area of law. It means that the candidates must pass the same tests regardless of the area they specialize in after law school (e.g., criminal law, private law, administrative law, etc.) or the legal profession they wish to practice (e.g., judge, attorney, prosecutor, etc.).
Post-Graduate Specializations: Law professionals can specialize in a specific field of law in post-graduate specialization (szakirányú továbbképzés) programs after having obtained their standard law degree. Students receive a certificate, but not a degree, upon the successful completion of the program. A large number of courses are available in a wide range of fields from data protection through EU law to business law. The length of the specialization programs varies between two and four years.
4.2. Legal Professions
Judges: The typical judicial career starts with a three-year training program followed by the completion of the bar exam and a special aptitude test. After that, one must work as a court secretary (law clerk) for at least one additional year. Only then does one become eligible for a judicial position. Judges (bíró) are first appointed for a definite period of three years. At the end of this probationary period their aptitude and the quality of their work is evaluated by senior judges. In case of a positive assessment, they become eligible for an appointment for life. Vacancies in the judiciary are filled by way of a central application process, but the judges receive their appointment from the President of the Republic.
The National Office for the Judiciary (Országos Bírósági Hivatal) is the central administrative body of the judiciary. Its president has very broad powers in the administration of the judicial system, most notably in the appointment of court leaders. The President of the NOJ is supervised officially by the National Judicial Council, the representative body of the judiciary. The professional training of the judges is organized by the Hungarian Academy of Justice which is a department within the National Office for the Judiciary.
Prosecutors: Prosecutors (ügyész) typically start their career after law school as junior prosecutors in a prosecution office for three years. After the successful completion of the bar exam at the end of this period, they must work as a deputy prosecutor for at least one more year. Prosecutors get their first appointment for a definite period of three years. Then they become eligible for an indefinite appointment by the Prosecutor General. Vacant positions are filled by way of a central application process. The administration of the prosecutorial service and the professional training of the prosecutors is the responsibility of the Office of the Prosecutor General. The National Institute of Criminology is the academic research and training center of Hungary’s Prosecution Service.
Attorneys: Only those who have successfully passed the bar exam and have at least three years of working experience as a law professional, including one year as a junior attorney (candidate for attorney), can be admitted to the bar. Junior attorneys and attorneys (ügyvéd) can practice law in Hungary if they are members of the bar association. There is one national (Hungarian Bar Association) and several regional associations. Attorneys can work as individual entrepreneurs or employees (employed attorneys), and they have the right to represent clients at every court in the country.
Legal Counsels are qualified law professionals employed by a corporation. Since 2018 they can also be members of the bar association, within which they have a separate division.
Public Notaries (közjegyző) are qualified law professionals appointed by the Minister of Justice who have the competence to conduct non-judicial legal proceedings in a wide range of areas, such as the certification of legal documents, the registration of wills, and the administration of the inheritance process (probate). The number of public notaries is limited, and they can provide certain legal services only in a given territory of the country. Public notaries have their own national and regional bar associations where membership is obligatory.
University Professors and Researchers: University professors can be employed in the following teaching positions:
- Junior assistant professors (tanársegéd) occupy the lowest position in the hierarchy whose appointment requires only the admission to the doctoral program after graduation from law school.
- Assistant professors (adjunktus) must have a doctoral degree.
- The position of associate professor (docens) requires a doctoral degree, significant teaching experience, the ability to coordinate the work of students and lower ranking professors, and the skills necessary to teach in a foreign language.
- The top teaching position is occupied by full professors (egyetemi tanár) who are appointed by the President of the Republic.
Those who are required to dedicate at least 80% of their work to research activities are employed as researchers in the following positions: research assistant (tudományos segédmunkatárs), researcher (tudományos munkatárs), senior researcher (tudományos főmunkatárs), research advisor (tudományos tanácsadó), and research professor (kutatóprofesszor).
5. Research Sources
Hungarian Domestic Laws: The National Legislation Database (Nemzeti Jogszabálytár) is an official database freely accessible to the public which contains every piece of legislation in force. The translation of certain particularly important legislative sources can also be found in this database. In addition, there is an official terminology database (Termin) which comprises key terms used in Hungarian legislation both in Hungarian and in English. The translation of a selected list of Hungarian legislative acts is also available on the website Legislationline of the OSCE-ODIHR. The International Labour Organisation also maintains a database on national labour, social security, and related human rights legislation. Új Jogtár is a subscription-based database which contains every piece of legislation applicable in Hungary, including the translation of certain legislative acts.
European Union Laws: Primary and secondary sources of EU law are available on EUR-Lex, the official legal database of the European Union. These sources are accessible in every official language of the EU Member States, so different language versions can be compared to make finding the correct terminology easier.
5.2. Court Decisions
The Collection of Judicial Decisions (Bírósági Határozatok Gyűjteménye) is a database freely available to the public which contains all judgements delivered by ordinary courts (i.e., excluding the case law of the Constitutional Court) in Hungarian.
The Supreme Court (Kúria), as the highest instance judicial forum in Hungary, has the constitutional duty to ensure the uniform application of the law. The Kúria carries out this duty by delivering uniformity decisions (jogegységi határozat), which are binding in every Hungarian court. The summaries of these decisions are available in English. In addition, the Kúria also publishes a selected list of the most important judicial decisions delivered in individual cases with the aim of providing guidance for the lower instance courts. The translation of the essence of the selected case law is available in English as well. Finally, several working groups set up by the Kúria are charged with the task of analyzing the jurisprudence of the Hungarian courts in order to draft non-binding opinions based on the findings of their research. The summary of the reports of these working groups are published in English.
Constitutional Court of Hungry: The Constitutional Court of Hungary is not part of the judiciary; therefore, its decisions can be found in its own separate search engine. Most of the decisions are published in Hungarian, but the English translations and summarizes of its case law can be found on the official website of the Constitutional Court: Translations and summaries (2009 – present), Translation and summaries (1990 – 2018).
Court of Justice of the European Union: Since Hungary is a Member State of the European Union, Hungarian judges must take into account the case law of the Court of Justice of the European Union, which is available in every official language of the EU on the website of the CJEU.
European Court of Human Rights: It follows from Hungary’s membership in the Council of Europe that the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) is particularly relevant, especially in the field of human rights related case law. Strictly speaking the judgments of the ECtHR are binding on Hungary, and thus on the Hungarian courts and authorities, only if Hungary is party to the case. Nevertheless, it not uncommon for ordinary courts and the Constitutional Court to take into consideration the case law of the ECtHR which is accessible in the HUDOC database. The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe is responsible for monitoring the implementation of the judgments in the Member States.
5.3. Opinions of International Organizations
Several international organizations are authorized to evaluate the Hungarian legal system. Let us mention only some of the most important ones. The OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights monitors the Hungarian elections. Several bodies assess Hungary’s compliance with international agreements on human rights, democracy, corruption, and the judicial system signed under the aegis of the Council of Europe. The opinions of the European Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission) are of particular significance. In recent years a serious rule of law backsliding has been detected in Hungary which prompted the European Union to evaluate the Hungarian legislative developments. Particularly important are the rule of law related infringement proceedings initiated by the European Commission before the Court of Justice of the EU, the resolution of the European Parliament launching an Article 7(1) procedure against Hungary to determine the existence of a clear risk of a serious breach of fundamental EU values, and the annual rule of law reports of the European Commission.
5.4. Secondary and Scholarly Publications
Many Hungarian scholars publish regularly in international law journals, typically in English but also very often in German, French, and Spanish. Therefore, their articles can be found in most of the well-known academic search engines. Matarka is a Hungarian database which contains primarily articles published in Hungarian law journals. The following databases can be used to find scholarly works published by Hungarian researchers and/or concerning the Hungarian legal system:
- Library of the Hungarian Parliament
- NEKTÁR (Catalogue of the National Széchenyi Library)
- Repository of the Library of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences
- Hungarian Scientific Bibliography
- Repository of the Research Documentation Centre (RDC) of the Centre for Social Sciences
Additional useful information may found in:
- Arcanum Digitecha
- National Audiovisual Archive
- Vera and Donald Blinken Open Society Archives
- Hungarian Central Statistical Office
5.4.2. Hungarian Law Journals in English
The following Hungarian law journals publish articles typically or exclusively in English:
- Acta Juridica Hungarica (Hungarian Journal of Legal Studies)
- ELTE Law Journal
- Hungarian Labour Law
- Pécs Journal of International and European Law
- Studia Juridica et Politica Jaurinensia
- Public Governance, Administration and Finances Law Review
- Pázmány Law Review
- Miskolc Journal of International Law
Although it is not a Hungarian law journal, but the volumes of the Hungarian Yearbook of International Law and European Law summarize the most important developments on a yearly basis. In addition, scholarly works are published in the MTA Law Working Papers and the Pázmány Law Working Papers. Finally, let us mention that the Institute of Legal Studies maintains an English blogsite.
5.4.3. Main Publishers in Hungary
Hungarian legal scholars usually send their manuscripts written in English or in other foreign languages to international publishers. However, several publishing houses operating in Hungary also offer monographs and edited books authored by Hungarian scholars in English. Let us mention the ones with the widest selection:
5.4.4. Basic Introductory Materials to Hungarian Law in English
The second edition of the Introduction to Hungarian Law (Wolters Kluwer, 2019) edited by Attila Harmathy provides a basic knowledge of legal concepts of Hungary, with special emphasis on practical issues, and covers every main area of law. The recently published second edition of Constitutional Law in Hungary (Wolters Kluwer, 2021) authored by Zoltán Szente provides essential information on the country’s sources of constitutional law, its form of government, and its administrative structure.
5.5. Research Centers
The Institute for Legal Studies used to be one of the many research centers operating under the supervision of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. However, due to a very controversial legislative reform enacted in 2018, the research centers of the Academy were transferred to a newly established government-run institution called Eötvös Loránd Research Network (ELKH). The Institute for Legal Studies is part of the Centre for Social Sciences; its departments cover the fields of constitutional and administrative law, criminal law, EU law and international law, legal theory, sociology of law, history of law, and private law. The Institute has many ongoing research projects.
Law Faculties: It is also very common that law faculties establish their own research centers or research groups focusing on a particular issue.
Eötvös Loránd University, Faculty of Law:
- Ödön Kuncz Legal Knowledge Centre (training and research services):
- Legal History Research Group
- Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence (Private International Law and European Economic Law)
- MTA-ELTE Lendület SPECTRA Research Group (hate crimes)
Pázmány Péter Catholic University, Faculty of Law:
- Ereky Public Law Research Center (public administration)
- Ernő Flachbarth Research Workshop (rights of minorities)
University of Debrecen, Faculty of Law: MTA-DE Public Service Research Group
University of Szeged, Faculty of Law: Higher Education Strategic Partnership on Digitalization and Criminal Law
Central European University is an American private higher education institution accredited in the State of New York. Its Department of Legal Studies has MA, LL.M., and Ph.D. programs in comparative constitutional law, human rights law, and international business law. Due to an amendment to the higher education act adopted in 2017 (that was found contrary to EU law by the CJEU), the university had to relocate its education programs to Vienna (Austria). However, a part of its research activities remained in Budapest, such as the Center for Ethics and Law in Biomedicine and the Democracy Institute.
The Andrássy University Budapest is a foreign higher education institution accredited in Germany, but it carries out its research activities in Hungary. Its research centers are:
- Danube Institute (Institute for Danube Regional Studies and European Integration Research)
- Center for Democracy Research
- Center for Law and Economics
The National Institute of Criminology is largest criminological research institute in Central Europe and it is the academic research and training centre of Hungary’s Prosecution Service.
 Zoltán Pozsár-Szentmiklósy: Direct Democracy in Hungary (1989–2016): from Popular Sovereignty to Popular Illusion, Scientia, Vol. 6 No. 1 (2017).
 István Tamás – István Hoffmann: Can (re) centralization be a modern governance in rural areas?, Transylvanian Review of Administrative Sciences, No. 50 (2017); The Hungarian Administrative System. From Centralization to Regionalization and Back, Journal of Political Administrative and Local Studies, Vol. 3 Issue 1 (2020).
 Miklós Bánkuti – Gábor Halmai – Kim Lane Scheppele: Hungary’s Illiberal Turn:Disabling the Constitution, Journal of Democracy, Vol. 23, No. 3 (2012); Renáta Uitz: Can you tell when an illiberal democracy is in the making? An appeal to comparative constitutional scholarship from Hungary, International Journal of Constitutional Law, Vol. 13 Issue 1 (2015); András Pap: Democratic Decline in Hungary. Law and Society in an Illiberal Democracy (London_ Routledge, 2017); András Bozóki – Dániel Hegedűs: An externally constrained hybrid regime: Hungary in the European Union, Democratization, Vol. 25 Issue 7 (2018); Tímea Drinóczi – Agnieszka Bień-Kacała: Illiberal Constitutionalism: The Case of Hungary and Poland, German Law Journal, Vol. 20 Issue 8 (2019); Gábor Halmai: The making of “illiberal constitutionalism” with or without a new constitution: the case of Hungary and Poland, in David Landau – Hanna Lerner (eds.) Comparative Constitution Making Research Handbooks in Comparative Constitutional Law series (Edward Elgar, Cheltenaham, 2019).
 Eszter Bodnár – Benedek Varsányi: Decision of the Hungarian Constitutional Court on the Exercise of the Right to Vote of Hungarian Citizens Living Abroad, Hungarian Yearbook of International Law and European Law (2017); Alíz Nagy: External citizens and the issue of unequal voting rights in Hungary, V4 Human Rights Review, Vol. 1 No.1 (2019).
 Péter Kállai: Minority representation in the Hungarian Parliament, V4 Human Rights Review, Vol. 1 No.1 (2019); Péter Kállai – Alíz Nagy: Parliamentary Representation of Nationalities and Kin-minorities – Hungary’s Biased Electoral System, European Yearbook of Minority Issues Online (2020)
 Tímea Drinóczi: Legislation in Hungary, in Ulrich Karpen – Helen Xanthake (eds.) Legislation in Europe. A Country by Country Guide (Hart, 2021).
 Viktor Zoltán Kazai: The misuse of the legislative process as part of the illiberal toolkit. The case of Hungary, Theory and Practice of Legislation (2021) (online first).
 Viktor Zoltán Kazai: The Instrumentalization of Parliamentary Legislation and its Possible Remedies: Lessons from Hungary, Jus Politicum, No. 23 (2019); Gabriella Ilonszki – Adrienn Vajda: How Far Can Populist Governments Go? The Impact of the Populist Government on the Hungarian Parliament, Parliamentary Affairs, Volume 74, Issue 4 (2021).
 John W Schiemann: Hungary. The emergence of chancellor democracy, Journal of Legislative Studies, Vol. 10 Issue 2-3 (2004).
 Kriszta Kovács – Kim Lane Scheppele: The fragility of an independent judiciary: Lessons from Hungary and Poland—and the European Union, Communist and Post-Communist Studies, Vol. 51 Issue 3 (2018); Zoltán Fleck: Changes of the Judicial Structure in Hungary – Understanding the New Authoritarianism, Osteuropa Recht, Vol. 64 Issue 4 (2018); Zoltán Szente: Stepping Into the Same River Twice? Judicial Independence in Old and New Authoritarianism, German Law Journal, Vol. 22 Issue 7 (2021).
 László Sólyom: The Constitutional Court of Hungary, in Armin von Bogdandy – Peter Huber – Christoph Grabenwarter (eds.) The Max Planck Handbooks in European Public Law, Volume III: Constitutional Adjudication: Institutions (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2020).
 Fruzsina Gárdos-Orosz: The Hungarian Constitutional Court in Transition - From Actio Popularis to Constitutional Complaint, Hungarian Journal of Legal Studies, Vol. 53 No. 4 (2012); Zoltán Szente: The Decline of Constitutional Review in Hungary – Towards a Partisan Constitutional Court?, in Zoltán Szente – Fanni Mandák – Zsuzsanna Fejes (eds.) Challenges and Pitfalls in the Recent Hungarian Constitutional Development. Discussing the New Fundamental Law of Hungary (Budapest: L’Harmattan and NKE, 2015); Kálmán Pócza – Gábor Dobos – Attila Gyulai: The Hungarian Constitutional Court: A constructive partner in constitutional dialogue, in Kálmán Pócza (ed.) Constitutional Politics and the Judiciary.
Decision-making in Central and Eastern Europe (London and New York: Routledge, 2019).
 András Jóri: The End of Independent Data Protection Supervision in Hungary – A Case Study, in Serge Gutwirth et al. (eds.) European Data Protection: Coming of Age (Cham: Springer, 2013).
 Gábor Polyák: Media in Hungary. Three Pillars of an Illiberal Democracy, in Eva Połońska – Charlie Beckett (eds.) Public Service Broadcasting and Media Systems in Troubled European Democracies (Cham: Springer, 2019).
 Andrew Arató – Zoltán Miklósi: Constitution Making and Transitional Politics in Hungary, L. Miller Framing the State United States Institute of Peace, 2010.
 Halmai, Gabor. "The Reform of Constitutional Law in Hungary after the Transition."
Legal Studies, vol. 18, no. 2, June 1998.; András Jakab – Péter Takács – Allan F. Tathan: The transformation of the Hungarian legal order 1985-2005 : transition to the rule of law and accession to the European Union (Alphen aan den Rijn : Kluwer Law International, 2007).
 Some of the most important scholarly works on the Fundamental Law: Gábor Attila Tóth (ed.) Constitution for a Disunited Nation (Budapest, CEU Press 2012); Lóránt Csink – Balázs Schanda – András Zs. Varga: The Basic Law of Hungary. A First Commentary (Dublin: Clarus Press , 2012); Pál Sonneved – András Jakab – Lóránt Csink: The Constitution as an Instrument of Everyday Party Politics: The Basic Law of Hungary, in Armin von Bogdandy – Pál Sonnevend (eds.) Constitutional Crisis in the European Constitutional Area. Theory, Law and Politics in Hungary and Romania (Oxford and Portland: Hart, 2015).
 Gábor Schweitzer: Fundamental Law – Cardinal Law – Historical Constitution: The Case of Hungary since 2011, Journal on European History of Law, Vol. 4, Issue 1 (2013); Fruzsina Gárdos-Orosz: The reference to constitutional traditions in populist constitutionalism – The case of Hungary, Hungarian Journal of Legal Studies, Vol. 61, Issue 1 (2021).
 The codification of this competence was the result of a serious conflict between the political branches and the Court. See Fruzsina Gárdos-Orosz: Judicial Review of Constitutional Amendments – the Hungarian Case in Context, in Zoltán Szente – Fanni Mandák – Zsuzsanna Fejes (eds.) Challenges and Pitfalls in the Recent Hungarian Constitutional Development. Discussing the New Fundamental Law of Hungary (Budapest: L’Harmattan and NKE, 2015).
 In addition, two other types of law may be issued but only in case of a special legal order is declared: decrees of the National Defence Council adopted during a state of national crisis and decrees of the President of the Republic adopted during a state of emergency. For the various types of special legal orders see Articles 48-54 of the Fundamental Law.
 For a comprehensive overview of this topic see Márton Varjú – Ernő Váray: The Law of the European Union in Hungary (Budapest: HVG-Orac, 2014). See also Flóra Fazekas – Márton Varjú: The reception of European Union law in Hungary: The Constitutional Court and the Hungarian judiciary, Common Market Law Review, Vol. 48 Issue 6 (2011).
 Gábor Halmai: Abuse of Constitutional Identity. The Hungarian Constitutional Court on Interpretation of Article E) (2) of the Fundamental Law, Review of Central and East European Law, Vol. 43 Issue 1 (2018); Tímea Drinóczi: Constitutional Identity in Europe: The Identity of the Constitution. A Regional Approach, German Law Journal, Vol. 21 Issue 2 (2020).
 Pál Sonnevend: The Role of International Law in Preserving Constitutional Values in Hungary
– the Case of the Hungarian Fundamental Law with International Law, in Zoltán Szente – Fanni Mandák – Zsuzsanna Fejes (eds.) Challenges and Pitfalls in the Recent Hungarian Constitutional Development. Discussing the New Fundamental Law of Hungary (Budapest: L’Harmattan and NKE, 2015).
 Petra Láncos: The State of Academic Freedom in Hungary: The Saga of the Central European University and the Research Network of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences in Light of National and European Guarantees of Academic Freedom, in Margrit Seckelmann et al. (eds.) Academic Freedom Under Pressure? A Comparative Perspective (Cham: Springer, 2021).
 Petra Bárd: The rule of law and academic freedom or the lack of it in Hungary, European Political Science, Vol. 19 Issue 1 (2019); Zsolt Enyedi: Democratic Backsliding and Academic Freedom in Hungary, Perspectives on Politics, Vol. 16 Issue 4 (2018).