Hungary’s draft constitution: A worrying signal for the EU Presidency

Hungary’s new constitution could restrict the national definition of family to fertile, heterosexual couples; deny protection from discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity; and prevent access to abortion, it emerged yesterday. Hungary currently holds the Presidency of the European Union until June 2011.

HungaryYesterday, the government coalition published the draft text for a new constitution (PDF, Hungarian), hoping Parliament will adopt the text on 18 April. In this draft, Hungary is bound to “protect the institution of marriage as a life community based on the voluntary decision of a woman and a man”*, and consider family “the guarantee of the survival of the nation”*.

Although the wording explicitly prohibits discrimination on grounds of “race, colour, sex, disability, language, religion, political or other views, national or social origins, ownership of assets”* or “birth”*, discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity will remain constitutional. The text also appears to unconditionally prohibit abortion, stating that “the life of the foetus shall be protected from the time of conception”*.

Family law is exclusively within the remit of EU Member States, but as current President of the Council of the European Union Hungary is expected to represent the European Union abroad, and chair internal policy debates.

Ulrike Lunacek MEP, Co-President of the Intergroup on LGBT Rights, said: “Today the European Parliament condemned Hungary’s modified Media Law. And here comes yet another highly worrying signal from the Hungarian government, out of touch with the EU’s shared values of freedom and protection of minorities. The Presidency of the EU must act in line with these shared values: it means prohibiting discrimination on all grounds, explicitly including sexual orientation and gender identity. The founding texts of a nation cannot be used to serve the political interests of one government.”

Sophie in’t Veld MEP, Vice-President of the LGBT Intergroup, added: “In his speech before the European Parliament on 9 March, the President of Hungary said we should ‘learn from past mistakes’. This should be part of it! We strongly urge the Hungarian parliament to reconsider the implications of erecting discrimination as national policy. It is shameful that a Member State of the European Union should enshrine discrimination into its constitution.”

*: Unofficial translation was used throughout this press release.