HUN-2016-1-002
a)  Hungary / b)  Constitutional Court / c) / d)  06-04-2016 / e)  8/2016 / f)  On the amendment to the Act on the Hungarian National Bank / g)  Magyar Közlöny (Official Gazette), 2016/47 / h) .
 
Keywords of the systematic thesaurus:
 
 
General Principles - Certainty of the law.
Institutions - Public finances - Central bank.
Fundamental Rights - Civil and political rights - Right to information.
 
Keywords of the alphabetical index:
 
Central bank, public funds / Data, access, public interest.
 
Headnotes:
 
The Hungarian National Bank exercises public functions and exclusively manages public funds. Therefore, it is accountable to the public in the spirit of transparency and the virtue of public life. The Hungarian National Bank may set up companies or foundations only in harmony with its tasks and primary objectives.
 
Summary:
 
I. On 1 March 2016, Parliament adopted an amendment to the Act on the Hungarian National Bank (hereinafter, «MNB») which allowed for the data of the MNB’s business units to be classified for up to ten years if releasing it could jeopardise the MNB’s monetary or foreign exchange policy interests.
 
Once Parliament passed the amendment, data managed by companies partially or wholly owned by the MNB were no longer accessible to the public. The amendment was passed by Parliament after a journalist sued to gain access to details of the spending by the MNB’s Pallas Athene Domus Animae Foundation and after the Budapest City Court ordered the Pallas Athéné Domus Animae Foundation to publish information on the flow of public money.
 
On 9 March 2016, the President declined to sign the amendment allowing the MNB to classify data on how it spends public money for its foundations, arguing that this amendment ran counter to the Constitution and national legislation regulating the handling of public money and provision of public information. According to the President, the modification to the MNB Act was incompatible with the constitutional provisions concerning the administration of public finances and information of public interest. The President noted that the Constitution «places special importance on constitutional requirements affecting public funding and public information compared to the previous Constitution». He also suggested that the retroactive effect of the change did not comply with the constitutional principle of legal certainty.
 
II. The Constitutional Court annulled the modification to the MNB Act which would have allowed the MNB to spend public money without disclosing how that money is spent. Allowing the MNB to classify the way its foundations spend public money was against Articles VI.2 and  39.2 of the Fundamental Law; public spending must be transparent.
 
The Constitutional Court underlined that the MNB exercises public functions and exclusively manages public funds. It is accordingly accountable to the public in the spirit of transparency and the virtue of public life. The MNB may set up companies or foundations only in harmony with its tasks and primary objectives, so the considerations it grants to these entities do not lose their characteristic of public funds.
 
Consequently, these organisations are obliged to ensure the publicity of their data and, in the Constitutional Court’s opinion, there was no constitutional reason why the law should restrict freedom to information. The amendment was unconstitutional.
 
The Court further ruled that the amendment was against the Constitution, because it would have made the finances of the foundations secret with retroactive effect.
 
III. Justice Béla Pokol and András Zs Varga attached separate opinions to the majority decision.
 
Languages:
 
Hungarian.