a) Hungary / b) Constitutional Court / c) / d) 01-07-1997 / e) 38/1997 / f) / g) Magyar Közlöny (Official Gazette), 58/1997 / h) .
Keywords of the Systematic Thesaurus:
General Principles - Market economy.
Institutions - Public finances - Taxation - Principles.
Fundamental Rights - Equality.
Fundamental Rights - Civil and political rights - Freedom of association.
Keywords of the alphabetical index:
Chamber, economic, compulsory membership / Membership, compulsory.
Chambers are public bodies, the establishment of which is regulated by law according to which these bodies carry out public tasks related to their membership. A chamber is not a voluntarily established organisation based on freedom of association, but is established by law. No one has the right to establish a chamber.
The petitioners requested constitutional review of Act XVI of 1994 on Economic Chambers (hereinafter: the Act). The petitioners challenged the constitutionality of the Act as a whole, and the extent to which it is in harmony with the principle of a market economy, since, according to them, the State exerts pressure on business organisations through the Economic Chambers. In the petitioners’opinion, the provision concerning compulsory membership and the restrictions imposed by the Act on members of Chambers infringes the right to form interest groups.
One of the petitioners requested the review of Article 35.1 of the Act, under which some functions fall within the exclusive competence of the Economic Chamber delegates’meeting. In the petitioner’s view, the questions determined in the course of the exercise of these functions are so essential that the members themselves should vote directly on them.
The petitioners asserted that the regulation according to which certain State support can be paid exclusively to the members of the Chambers is contrary to the prohibition of discrimination.
Members of the Chambers are obliged to pay membership fees to the Chambers under Article 53 of the Act. The petitioners contended that this regulation violates the constitutional principle of general and proportionate division of taxation, since membership is compulsory for business organisations. Membership fees thus amount to indirect taxation.
The Constitutional Court found the petitions to be unfounded and held that the Act did conform to the provisions of the Hungarian Constitution. Public bodies - i.e. organisations established by law - undertake public tasks, which otherwise should be carried out by the State or by local governments. Therefore, public bodies are established according to the intention of the legislator and not according to the intention of their members.
Freedom of association and other constitutional principles to which the petitioners referred are not applicable to public bodies, if the restriction of these constitutional rights is proportional to the public tasks to be carried out by the public body. The Constitutional Court examined the level of the restriction of the constitutional rights at issue and held that the restrictions were proportional to the public tasks (e.g. in the field of public administration and representation of interests) undertaken by the Economic Chamber.