a) Hungary / b) Constitutional Court / c) / d) 30-06-1995 / e) 43/1995 / f) / g) Magyar Közlöny (Official Gazette), 56/1995 / h) .
Keywords of the Systematic Thesaurus:
General Principles - Social State.
General Principles - Certainty of the law.
General Principles - Vested and/or acquired rights.
Fundamental Rights - Civil and political rights - Right to property.
Fundamental Rights - Economic, social and cultural rights - Right to social security.
Keywords of the alphabetical index:
Motherhood / Social protection / Family, right to benefits.
The Constitutional Court declared that legal certainty, as the most significant conceptual element and theoretical basis for the protection of acquired rights, is of particular significance for the stability of welfare systems.
Where there is a shift to a new system of welfare benefits, the constitutional requirement which relates to the element of legal certainty is that there be a guaranteed changeover period to afford those concerned the necessary time to adjust to the amended provisions and to allow for family finances to be adjusted to the new conditions.
Under the previous system of childcare, families raising children were supported through a system of several different interrelated institutions. The Economic Stabilisation Act annulled or altered the conditions of child care benefits (virtually overnight). As a result of the change in the law, a certain proportion of families were no longer eligible under the new system. The provisions of the Act altered the benefit system by transforming it into a so-called aid system based on the principle of need. These changes were very substantial since they replaced the familiar benefit system that families had grown accustomed to and also affected vested rights acknowledged by the former system.
The Constitutional Court stressed that the benefits and their related expectations could not be substantially altered overnight or without sufficient reason. Special reasons were needed for changes to be instigated without a transition period.
In the case of social security benefits where the insurance element has a role to play, the constitutionality of the reduction or termination of benefits should be evaluated according to the criteria of protection of property.
Mothers and children are especially protected by the Hungarian Constitution. The termination of maternity grants and childcare allowances violates the State's obligation to protect mothers and children.
In implementing the legal regulations aimed at transforming the welfare benefit system, it is a constitutional requirement that the State's actions be calculable, so that people can plan economic or family-related decisions.
The Constitutional Court found the entry into force on 1 July of a law promulgated on 15 June to be unconstitutional.
The Court ruled that in the interest of protecting vested rights, legal certainty requires that the benefits be guaranteed under conditions no less favourable than those specified in legal regulations in force with respect to children already born by or to be born within 300 days of 15 June 1995.
One judge gave a concurring opinion emphasising that aggravating the conditions for raising children, especially for the sake of budget savings of negligible importance, can hardly be harmonised with the Constitution.