On Monday, the Hungarian parliament overwhelmingly passed a15-page amendment to its one-year-old Constitution – despite massprotests at home and fierce criticism from other EU members, the USand human rights groups.The bill gives more powers to the government and limits theinfluence of the country’s constitutional court, banning it fromreviewing changes to the Hungarian Fundamental Law other than forprocedural mistakes.Jail for homeless peopleUnder the document, constitutional judges will also be robbed ofthe right to refer to rulings made before January 1, 2012 – whenthe new constitution came into force. This means that manyregulations that had previously been called unconstitutional willnow be considered constitutional.That, for instance, includes a law that gives a possibility forlocal authorities to fine or jail homeless people for living inpublic areas. Meanwhile, according to the UN, an estimated 30,000to 35,000 people, including numerous women, children, older personsand persons with disabilities, are thought to be homeless inHungary. In November, the constitutional court struck down thelegislation saying it violated human dignity.Among other amendments is the prohibition of politicaladvertising on commercial channels during election campaigns, and,also the right by the head of the state judicial authority totransfer trials from one court to another. Besides that, studentswho get state grants will be obliged to work in Hungary for anumber of years after their graduation. Those who want to workabroad will have to pay the money back.The amendments – put forward by the ruling conservative Fideszparty – provide a definition of a family that is founded onmarriage between a man and a woman or a relations ship betweenparents and dependent children. Earlier in December, theconstitutional court slammed the legal provisions as ‘excessivelyrestrictive.’ Hungary ‘defies EU democratic values’ “The new provisions continue to discriminate against unmarriedand same-sex families,” Human Rights Watch stated on its website onTuesday. The organization called on the EU to “takeresolute action” in response to the latest constitutional changesadopted in the Hungarian parliamentThe Hungarian opposition claims that the ruling party along withits leader Prime Minister Viktor Orbán is trying to limit the topcourt’s powers in revenge, after it rejected several initiativesproposed by Fidesz.Meanwhile, the European Union – whose opinion had been ignoredby Hungarian lawmakers – voiced deep concerns over the set ofamendments that could “undermine democratic principles” and violatethe rule of law.German Chancellor Angela Merkel criticized Budapest andunderlined that “the concerns expressed by European partners andfriends of Hungary, about restrictions on the powers of theconstitutional court among other things, should be takenseriously,” a spokesman said, as cited by AFP.European Commission spokesperson, Olivier Bailly said theamendments will be checked as soon as possible to make sure they”are in line with EU laws and EU values.”"If necessary we will use our legal instruments to make surethat these laws are changed,” he added, reported AssociatedPress.Victoria Nuland, US State Department spokesperson also slammedthe document which, she said, “could threaten the principles ofinstitutional independence and the checks and balances that are thehallmark of democratic governance.”European experts note that if the package of amendments issigned by President Janos Ader, it will bring to naught over 20years of the development of the Hungarian judicial system after thefall of the Communism.
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