The Parliament of Hungary passed a package of bills on Wednesday that establishes a new system of courts that will be supreme in administrative matters. Drafts of the two bills, T/3353 and T/3354, were submitted by the government on November 6 and passed with 131 in favor and two against and 130 in favor and 3 against, respectively, in yesterday’s vote.
The jurisdiction of the new administrative courts ranges from cases of public concern, including elections, corruption, asylum, and peaceful assembly, to economic matters from disputes over taxation to the issuing of construction and building permits to media and market competition. Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s Justice Minister will have the power to appoint judges in both the new lower administrative courts and the Administrative High Court. He will also control judicial promotions and the courts’ operating budget.
Although the government cites efficiency as its motivation, the Hungarian Helsinki Committee has said the new system of courts will seriously jeopardize judicial independence in Hungary and undermine separation of powers.
The laws will be reviewed by the Venice Commission, an expert body that issues advisory opinions. The government has said that it will assess the Venice Commission’s opinion and carry out corrections to the law if required.
The new administrative courts will begin operating on January 1, 2020.