The Constitutional Court on Tuesday said that some rules governing National Land Fund assets breach Hungary’s fundamental law.
Lawmaker Benedek R Sallai of green LMP and 51 other opposition lawmakers had turned to the court, complaining that parts of the law regulating the National Land Fund were unconstitutional and written post-hoc to justify sales connected with the government’s scheme to sell land to local farmers.
The court rejected these concerns but ruled that the law did not specify the portion of the Fund’s lands that could be sold to reduce the public debt.
This opened up the risk that the government could substantially reduce the Fund’s assets, ultimately jeopardising its operation, the ruling said.
The National Land Fund is in charge of protecting and preserving natural resources, including Hungarian farmland, woodland, water supplies and indigenous plant and animal species. These objectives are put at risk if the use of the Fund’s assets is unregulated, the court said.
It ordered parliament to regulate the sales of National Land Fund property to ensure that any reduced assets do not jeopardise its operations.
The court set a May 31, 2018 deadline so that the revised regulations apply when drawing up the 2019 state budget.
Gábor Harangozó, a Socialist deputy head of parliament’s agricultural committee, said the decision demonstrated that the court was operating insufficiently. He said the ruling would not support farmers since a large part of farmlands had been sold and revenues spent on repaying state debt.
Opposition Jobbik expressed regret over the court deciding against annulling related regulations. The party, however, welcomed the part of the ruling that sets criteria on the further use of land.
As we wrote last December, the Constitutional Court rejected a lower court’s request to annul certain clauses of the national land fund law and a government decree regulating the use of lands managed by the National Land Management Fund (NFA).