Hungary’s Plan Regarding the Administrative Courts
Hungary rejects rule of law concerns and is determined to set up a new system of courts which will handle issues related to state administration. The justice minister says that EU should refrain from interference. A fundamental pillar of the rule of law says the state must exercise judicial control over the actions of public administration; therefore a solution is to give the power to an administrative judicial organ.
Orban has had differences over time with the European Union about including curbs on media freedom. These new courts must stand independently because in administrative disputes there is a hierarchical inequality and the judges would protect the public interest as well as the individual liberties. Hungary’s plan to establish independent administrative courts would give them the authority to adjudicate disputes, a move that has raised questions about independence.
Once established, they would ensure high-quality adjudication that would lead to rapid rulings and ease the present workload of Hungary’s Supreme Court. Hungarian Justice Minister Laszlo Trocsanyi has given a series of statements on legislative issues in Hungary, announcing the plan and dismissing, in the same time, concerns over judges that are loyal to Viktor Orban’s government. They should be set now because the government expects an increase in legal proceedings and the Ministry of Justice want to make them more efficient with the professional experience of judges.
Stressing that the independence of judges was important, Trocsanyi said that administration courts were part of the legal system in Austria and France as well, and stated that new judges would be appointed on competitive exams. In order to make the administrative judicial procedures run more efficiently, the process has been underway for some time, exactly two years ago. Trocsanyi told the reporters, at a judicial conference, that “We would like to set up a very effective administrative court system,” and that “When I took my oath in parliament, I swore I would strive to prepare bills… in compliance with the rule of law”.
The entry of the new Administrative Procedural Code actually started the process of regionalizing administrative procedures and specific courts that shall be established to deal with specific matters. The European Parliament voted to sanction Hungary in an unprecedented way regarding the rules on democracy and corruption; however, the country is decided to challenge the decision. Currently, once appealed, the cases are forwarded to second-degree courts, thus an independent administrative court would effectively fill the void.
Hungary is considering various models, said Trocsanyi, such as a justice minister who has a limited role in appointing judges. Such independent courts are common in other EU countries, for example in Austria and Germany. If you want to know what these courts are you should be aware that citizens have the right to appeal decisions which would be settled by experienced and knowledgeable judges.
There’s nothing new in this initiative, but it is a subject of public discussion, as a committee comprising university professors, judges and the state secretary for Judicial Relations was set up to weigh in on the debate.