The Commissioner for Fundamental Rights Turned to the Constitutional Court Regarding the 2017 Amendment of the Forest Act

On the proposal of his Deputy-Commissioner for Future Generations Gyula Bándi, the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights László Székely reviewed the provisions of the Forest Act amended in 2017 and turned to the Constitutional Court with constitutional concerns.

Based on the motions submitted by several national nature protection organisations, the Deputy-Commissioner Gyula Bándi, the advocate for future generations, examined the provisions of the Forest Act and – as they are contrary to the principle of non-derogation in a number of points and they violate the principle of legal certainty – he proposed to the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights that he turn to the Constitutional Court in order to annul several provisions of the Act and to establish constitutional requirements. The Commissioner agreed with the professional position of his Deputy-Commissioner. The main finding of the position is that the amendment of the Forest Act reduces – in quantitative as well as in qualitative terms – the restrictions with nature protection objectives, applicable to protected forests situated in the Natura 2000 areas. 

In the absence of compelling reasons arising from the Fundamental Law, the challenged legal provisions, among others, relegate the nature conservation purposes to the background against the interests of forest managers. In addition to the apparent priority of nature conservation, the said provisions permit the actual enforcement of economic interests, they reduce the level of protection of local protected natural areas and furthermore, they fundamentally change the procedural guarantees of protection.
 
Differing from the concept of Natura 2000 defined by EU law, the said provisions narrow down the protection of forests belonging to this network and they restrict the possibility of enforcing nature protection requirements aimed at protecting natural values in such a way which is not justifiable by the necessity-proportionality test.

Based on the above, in its petition the Commissioner – on the one hand – initiated the annulment of those sections of the Forest Act which reduce the level of protection by introducing new provisions and those which are not rectifiable by amendment; and – on the other hand – he proposed the cancellation of certain parts of the amended text in force.