I recently found out that Hungary enacted a new constitution last year. Apparently it has generated some controversy, inside the country and out. I found the full English text of the constitution at www.presidentialactivism.com and I’ve started to parse it out. There are some interesting things in it.
I remember reading (in a novel, in fact) about the Hungarian Uprising of 1956. The uprising only lasted a couple of weeks before the Soviet Union put the hammer down, but it remains a special event in Hungarian memory – in fact, the date of the beginning of the uprising, October 23, is still a national holiday. We have our Independence Day, but our revolution was successful. The Hungarian people didn’t stand a chance against the Soviet military machine.
The new constitution takes into account two important facts: first, natives of Hungary are scattered throughout eastern Europe, and the constitution protects them as citizens even if they do not reside within its borders. I’m not talking about someone living in the Czech Republic for a year or two, working or attending a university; I’m talking residents of those countries and their descendants who were not born in Hungary. You see, the historical ethnic people of Hungary are the Magyars, and the current nation of Hungary is not the same borders as those of the mostly-Magyar nation prior to 1920, when the Treaty of Trianon broke several areas off. See this article for more.
This is similar to what happened to the Ottoman Empire, when a young Winston Churchill drew the boundaries for what are now many of the countries of the Middle East, without much regard for who lived where – except, apparently, a few ruling families that were on the right side when World War I ended. In this case, not only history, but geography was written by the victors.
So there are several significant ethnic and religious-based groups living within Hungary’s borders who are not, according to the government, “real Hungarians.” That’s my term. The term in the constitution is “nationalities.” Article XXIX states, in part:
(1) Nationalities living in Hungary shall be constituent parts of the State. Every Hungarian citizen belonging to any nationality shall have the right to freely express and preserve his or her identity. Nationalities living in Hungary shall have the right to use their native languages and to the individual and collective use of names in their own languages, to promote their own cultures, and to be educated in their native languages.
(2) Nationalities living in Hungary shall have the right to establish local and national self-governments.
If this was the US, I think that means (legal) Mexican immigrants can have government schools that teach in Spanish. Back about a hundred years ago, Chicago could have had government-sponsored schools that taught in Polish, and New York in Italian.
However, Article XXIII gives certain voting rights to non-citizens:
1) Every adult Hungarian citizen shall have the right to be a voter as well as a candidate in the elections of Members of Parliament, local representatives and mayors, and of members of the European Parliament.
(2) Every adult citizen of any other member state of the European Union who is a resident of Hungary shall have the right to be a voter as well as a candidate in the elections of local representatives and mayors, and of members of the European Parliament.
(3) Every adult person who is recognised as a refugee, immigrant or resident of Hungary shall have the right to be a voter in the elections of local representatives and mayors.
Yep, a non-citizen immigrant has the right to vote at least in local elections. No citizenship required. (I’m not even going to get into the whole European Union bit. The way things are going for the EU lately, it may not even exist by the time you read this.)
I thought that was interesting.
There are some other zingers. Article XXI prohibits pollutants being brought into the country for the purpose of dumping. Article XX outlaws “genetically modified organisms,” so no genmod seeds for Hungarian farmers.
There are four words or phrases that are of particular interest. One is “have the right,” and there are lots more rights in this document than in our Bill of Rights. Or, at least, they are enumerated in greater detail. There is “Hungary shall strive,” which gives them government an out on things like “providing every person with decent housing and access to public services.” (Article XXII.) My favorite is “shall be obliged,” and I don’t know the legal definition. This is used in places like Article XVI, in, “(4) Adult children shall be obliged to look after their parents if they are in need.” Does this mean Gramma and Grampa have to move in with you? Exactly what obligation do you have, and – I have to ask – what business is it of the government?
Turns out a lot is the business of the government. They may take your land (even though you have a right to ownership of property, Article XIII) but they must pay you for it right away. Article XVII says in part that every employee has the right to “annual paid leave.” What? How much?
Free and compulsory education is only through the primary grades. Secondary education must be “free and generally available.” (Article XI)
Here’s one of the things that has many in the EU getting their panties in a bunch: Article II, right away, states “Every human being shall have the right to life and human dignity; embryonic and foetal life shall be subject to protection from the moment of conception.” Yep. No pro-choice here, folks.
If you were waiting for that cloned liver to save you, don’t go to Budapest. Article III prohibits human cloning.
There’s more. As I said, it’s a very interesting document, and the connections between the State and religions is particularly novel, despite stating in Article VII that e”very person shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.”
I’ll get to that in part 2. Stay tuned…