Budapest, June 1 (MTI) – Hungary’s top court ruled on Monday that the recent amendment to the land asset law concerning national parks is unconstitutional.

At the same time the part of the law enabling the termination of lease contracts and lease rights for certain land belonging to the National Land Fund is not unconstitutional, the body ruled.

Parliament approved with a simple majority at the end of April the law under which the land rights of national parks were put into the ownership of the National Land Fund and leasehold rights were terminated.

President Janos Ader refused to sign the law and turned to the top court for an opinion.

The court said that changing the approval conditions of the law from a supermajority to a simple one had been unconstitutional. It also ruled against the principle that the land fund would prioritise the economic aspects of managing the land as opposed to ensuring they remain protected nature reserves.

The opposition Egyutt party called on the ruling Fidesz-KDNP coalition to “forget about re-regulating the amended passages on national parks”. Egyutt said Fidesz should accept the top court’s ruling and refrain from amending the constitution or using other “legal tricks” to push the bill through.

Green party LMP said it welcomed the top court ruling as it believed that the amendment approved by the ruling parties had “fundamentally endangered” the goals of protecting the country’s natural habitats. Benedek R. Sallai, a party lawmaker, said it was “reassuring” that the Constitutional Court had taken its responsibilities of looking after the environment seriously, especially considering that the desire by certain interest groups to take hold of natural resources had grown in the recent past.

The radical nationalist Jobbik party also welcomed the decision, which they interpreted as a sign that “the Fidesz law failed and the positions of the people, professionals, civil and green groups and Jobbik have triumphed.”

Socialist lawmaker Gabor Harangozo, who is also a deputy chairman of parliament’s agricultural committee, said the attempt of Fidesz to degrade Hungary’s green areas into “payout” places in hopes of tapping on land-based subsidies had failed. “Common sense has triumphed,” he told a press conference, adding that Orban’s “horrific” plan had been “too much” even for the top court, where Fidesz-delegates are in a majority.

The opposition Dialogue for Hungary (PM) also welcomed the decision and the declaration by the top court that the legal levels of protection for the environment cannot be narrowed.

Rebeka Szabo, a senior PM official, said the National Land Management Fund is unfit to take environmental considerations into account and she called it shocking that the amendment had gone past the entire public administration system before it was stopped by the top court.

Three environmentalist groups said they welcomed the court ruling which “gave new hope” for environmentalists in Hungary. They said in a joint statement that they expect the government to respect the court’s decision and abandon plans to weaken the positions of the national park directorates.

Istvan Nagy, state secretary at the farm ministry, said the government had wanted to create a clear environment for land leasing, taking all relevant decisions into one central hand: that of the National Land Management Fund (NFA). This way decisions would be made based on a single rule and not “in ten different places”.

“Naturally we will respect the top court’s decision and examine its recommendations,” Nagy said. The government will put forward its proposal for a new amendment based on these recommendations, he added.


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