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Hungary: Venice Commission assesses law on national sovereignty protection

In an opinion on Hungary’s Act LXXXVIII on the Protection of National Sovereignty, the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission has examined the main elements of the Act, particularly the prohibition of foreign funding in electoral campaigns and the establishment and activities of the Sovereignty Protection Office.

The Venice Commission notes that measures such as introducing restrictions on foreign funding of political parties and election campaigns are in principle in line with international best practices and standards. The opinion stresses, however, that the provisions of the Act extend beyond electoral campaigns to cover political activity in a broader sense and campaigns for social change. The reason and need for such a broad approach “have not been substantiated by the Hungarian authorities,” according to the opinion.

The opinion concludes that the part of the Act which extends the prohibition to receive foreign funding, which in the past applied only to political parties, and establishes a new criminal offence entitled “Illegal influence of the will of voters” is compatible with international standards on the condition that the provisions are amended to provide for certain exceptions of the new restrictions and for more precise definitions.

Concerning the other part of the Act which establishes the Sovereignty Protection Office, the opinion questions the legal basis for this Office as a protector of “constitutional identity” while it is mandated to protect “national sovereignty.” In a democratic State, threats identified by the justification of the Act normally are countered through the ordinary institutions of the State, which provide for guarantees in respect of interferences in the exercise of fundamental rights, such as courts and law enforcement authorities. The Sovereignty Protection Office should not encroach on the constitutional competences of these bodies, and the Venice Commission fails to see the need for its establishment.

The opinion was requested by the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly’s Monitoring Committee.

 Press release
Hungary: Venice Commission assesses law on national sovereignty protection

Venice Commission Venice 19 March 2024
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