Budapest, March 31 (MTI) – Hungary’s Constitutional Court ruled on Thursday that amendments to the law governing the central bank that give the National Bank of Hungary the legal power to decline public information requests concerning companies that support its activities, or to classify such information with retroactive effect, are unconstitutional.
In its ruling the top court noted that the central bank does a public service and the funds it manages are all public, therefore, under the constitution, it is obliged to keep its operations transparent and account for those funds to the public. The court also noted that the central bank can only set up foundations or companies such as ones that are connected to the bank’s primary function, therefore the funds donated to those organisations will not cease to be public funds.
The court at the same time declared constitutional an amendment to the postal act that allows Magyar Posta to keep information on its activities on the deregulated postal market confidential. The ruling said that the amendment actually allowed for a wider range of public information, therefore it is not in conflict with the constitution. It is up to a regular court to decide whether publication of particular data would impact the business of the Hungarian Post, the ruling added.
President János Áder sent the laws to the court for review earlier this month.
Commenting on the decisions, government office chief János Lázár declared the postal law amendment a “success”. He interpreted the decision as the top court’s recognition that in certain cases the state’s business interests have precedence over the right to public information.
As for the other bill, Lázár said parliament should consider if there is constitutional way to settle issues around the confidentiality of information concerning the central bank’s business units.
Ruling Fidesz said in a statement that it would observe the top court’s decisions. The two decisions “set the boundaries for parliament when defining the range of public information”, the statement said, adding that Fidesz’s parliamentary group will consider those boundaries in its legislative work in future.
The opposition Socialists welcomed the decision on the central bank amendment, under which “foundations of the central bank can no longer conceal what they spend taxpayers money on”. Socialist MP Bertalan Tóth said in a statement that central bank governor György Matolcsy “has 10 days left to account for 260 billion forints (EUR 828m) of public funds hidden in his foundations”. Regarding the other ruling, Tóth said it was regrettable that the Constitutional Court had given the green light to the postal act amendment, thus “providing assistance to a theft-based government and clandestine privatisation of the Hungarian postal service”.
Jobbik said the ruling concerning the central bank represented “serious criticism” of the ruling parties. In a statement, Jobbik hailed the decision as its own achievement, and noted that Jobbik had called on Áder to send the bill for constitutional review. Jobbik “expects Fidesz to drop its arrogance” and stop obstructing control over bodies managing public funds, the statement said.
The green opposition LMP welcomed the decision, saying it would contribute to greater transparency.