Unprecedented: The Hungarian Constitutional Court docket grants a future for nature

Unprecedented: The Hungarian Constitutional Court grants a future for nature

In a progressive determination, the Hungarian Constitutional Court docket has strengthened the nation’s nature conservation system. The choice on the 2017 modification of the Act XXXVII of 2009 on Forest, Forest Safety and Administration, revealed on June 15, 2020, clearly implies that these in cost ought to shield the atmosphere at the price of short-term financial earnings.

The proceedings have been initiated by the Commissioner for Basic Rights, based mostly on a grievance from a gaggle of environmental NGOs who have been involved that controversial 2017 adjustments made to the Forest Act significantly weakened safety of websites and species. The Commissioner executed his constitutional proper to request the Court docket to look at conformity of legislation with the Structure.

Article P (1) of the Structure

The Constitutional Court docket based mostly its evaluation on Article P (1) of the Structure which says:

[n]atural assets, specifically arable land, forests and the reserves of water; biodiversity, specifically native plant and animal species; and cultural artefacts, shall kind the widespread heritage of the nation, it shall be the duty of the State and everybody to guard and keep them, and to protect them for future generations.’

In its determination, the Court docket emphasised that, by explicitly referring to forests, the Structure creates a system of safety from an intergenerational perspective. The safety system relies on the idea of public look after environmental and pure values. The state acts as a trustee for the longer term generations and may enable these residing in current time to make use of and exploit these assets solely to the extent to which they don’t jeopardise the long-term survival of pure and cultural values.

The precept, requiring preservation of pure and cultural assets for future generations, can thus be thought of part of newly established and consolidated common customary legislation, and expresses the constitutional dedication to protect environmental, pure and cultural values [1]. By making this reference, the Court docket harassed the truth that the precept of preserving nature for future generations has a global dimension. It may be assumed that the Court docket did this to bolster the precept’s binding drive.

The Court docket recognised that forests serve a variety of features: they decide the character of the panorama, keep biodiversity, enable for the manufacturing of renewable power and sustenance, in addition to making the human atmosphere lovely, snug and wholesome [2].

Forest safety is, due to this fact, an obligation not just for the state however for everybody. Forests have widespread heritage standing, which imposes obligations on forest landowners, managers and leisure customers. All these events should comply with the principles of sustainable forestry. These necessities have an effect on specifically the state and forest homeowners by limiting full and unconditional freedom in decision-making.  As a substitute, they’re required to make sure that their forest administration is accountable, sustainable and takes into consideration the pursuits of future generations [3].

Based mostly on Article P (1) of the Structure, when weighing present financial pursuits towards the safety of pure and cultural values for future generations, the latter prevails [4]. The mere threat of environmental deterioration could ultimately result in the breach of the Structure [5].

The Court docket acknowledged that Natura 2000 websites derive safety from Article P (1) of the Structure. Article P (1) creates an obligation on authorities and on each individual to successfully shield and protect this heritage [6]. The state-owned forests with Natura 2000 safety are of unquestionable pure worth, due to this fact, clearcutting is a final resort and will be performed provided that no different means are potential in a given case [7].

Proudly owning or managing a forest incurs further obligations. Forest administration can’t be handled because the unique enterprise curiosity of an individual with forest possession or land use rights – so possession doesn’t solely symbolize particular person rights but additionally rights of a society as a complete. A authorized framework permitting the non-public pursuits of forest managers to conquer nature safety is neither proportionate nor justifiable and due to this fact is unconstitutional [8]. That is the place the general public curiosity of nature safety prevails over the non-public pursuits of forest homeowners and managers.


The Hungarian Constitutional Court docket’s determination is a milestone in nature safety within the nation. The Court docket based mostly its reasoning on the non-derogation precept, in accordance with which a state just isn’t allowed to step again from the extent of environmental safety it already ensures, and the precautionary precept which requires decision-makers to undertake precautionary measures when scientific proof about an environmental or human well being hazard is unsure. These two ideas have been linked to to Article P (1) of the Structure.

The choice clearly implies that these in cost ought to prioritise defending the atmosphere over short-term financial earnings. They need to be certain that the pure heritage is preserved for the longer term generations. This is a crucial ruling that sends a transparent message to decision-makers in different EU member states.

It’s not solely Hungary that has been going through threats to its protected forests. The longer-term, future-orientated perspective is mostly lacking in forest administration. In Hungary’s neighbouring nation, Romania, large-scale logging is happening and old-growth main forests are being destroyed for revenue. This clearly displays a rising and worrisome development.

Authorized evaluation of the ruling is obtainable right here.

  1. Hungarian Constitutional Court docket determination 14/2020. (VII. 6.), Par. 22.
  2. Cit., Par. 23.
  3. Ibidem.
  4. Cit., Paras. 34-36.
  5. Cit., Par. 37.
  6. Cit., Par. 54.
  7. Cit., Paras 125-126.
  8. Cit., Par. 168.

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