The Constitutional Court adopted another decision protecting natural resources29 October 2017
The National Assembly caused a violation of the Fundamental Law manifested in an omission by not providing for the adoption of a regulation – along with the amendment of the Act on the National Land Fund – to secure the long-term preservation of the National Land Fund’s assets protected by cardinal rules. The purpose of the Land Fund is to protect and preserve for the future generations the natural resources, in particular arable land, forests, water stock as well as indigenous species of plants and animals. The amended regulations do not exclude the possibility to risk the realisation of these aims due to using the revenue for decreasing state debt. The Constitutional Court order the application of the precautionary principle as one of the most severe rules of environmental law.
MP Benedek Sallai R. and more than one quarter of the Members of Parliament challenged at the Constitutional Court the provisions of three Acts (the Act amending the Act on the National Land Fund, the amended provisions of Act on the National Land Fund and the Act on the “Land for the Farmers!” Program) and a resolution of the Parliament. According to the petition, the Government and the simple majority of the National Assembly adopted the challenged provisions for the purpose of the posterior legitimization of the sale implemented in the framework of the “Land for the Farmers!” Program, thus creating a situation in breach of the Fundamental Law.
The resolution of the Parliament on closing the “Land for the Farmers!” Program has a content that does not qualify as a normative decision or order, therefore its review is beyond the Constitutional Court’s scope of competence, and the Act amending the Act on the National Land Fund has lost force. Accordingly the examination on the merits only covered the amended provisions of the Act on the National Land Fund and the Act closing the “Land for the Farmers!” Program.
The Constitutional Court established that the article of the Fundamental Law on the protection of natural resources does not imply that certain provisions of the Act on the Land Fund should be cardinal ones as the guarantee required by the Fundamental Law is secured by way of another Act (Act on the Trade of Land). In addition, the provision of the Act on the Land Fund challenged in the petition is not aimed at the utilisation of the pieces of land belonging to the Land Fund, but at using the revenue from the utilisation thereof. In turn, there is no such rule in the Fundamental Law that would require cardinality as a precondition of a legislative decision on using any revenue of the State. The Constitutional Court found that the challenged provisions of the Act on the National Land Fund and the Act closing the “Land for the Farmers!” Program were not contrary to the Fundamental Law.
At the same time, the Constitutional Court detected that the Act on the Land Fund does not contain any provision on the proportion that can be allocated to decreasing the state debt from the revenues originating from the utilisation of the pieces of land belonging to the Land Fund. The amended text of the Act on the Land Fund does not preclude a series of budgetary decisions that may decrease significantly, in the long-run, the assets managed by the Land Fund, and that may ultimately even lead to the elimination of the Land Fund. Therefore the Constitutional Court calls upon the National Assembly to meet its legislative duty by 31 May 2018, i.e. that the budget for the year 2019 should be adopted by taking this requirement into account.
Judges Dr. Marcel Szabó and Dr. László Salamon attached concurring opinions and Judges Dr. Ágnes Czine, Dr. Ildikó Hörcherné Dr. Marosi, Dr. István Balsai, Dr. Egon Dienes-Oehm and Dr. István Stumpf attached dissenting opinions to the decision. The full text of the decision of the Constitutional Court is available on the Constitutional Court’s website (alkotmanybirosag.hu), the case No. is II/01902/2016.
Budapest, 17 October 2017