Assessment of the Act on the Protection of National Sovereignty

Joint paper by the Hungarian Helsinki Committee and Amnesty International Hungary

Act LXXXVIII of 2023 on the Protection of National Sovereignty (the Act) entered into force on
23 December 2023.1 The Act consists of two distinct elements: the setting up of the new
Sovereignty Protection Office (SPO) as of 1 February 2024, and an amendment to the Hungarian
Criminal Code prescribing prison sentence for using funding from abroad (overtly or “in disguise
to circumvent the prohibition”) for political campaign purposes. The Act raises conflicts with EU

This paper provides

  • an overview of the contents of the Act and the related 12th Amendment to the Fundamental Law;
  • a summary of how Hungary’s Constitutional Court interprets the concept of national sovereignty and constitutional identity, the underlying ideas of the Act; and
  • a non-exhaustive list of potential breaches of EU law.

The SPO will have (i) wide ranging tools at its disposal to investigate private individuals, informal
groups and legal entities both inside and outside of Hungary, and (ii) the concepts it is envisaged
to defend are eluding definition in the Hungarian legal system. Consequently, the potential
effects of its activities as regards EU law are not justified and not foreseeable in their entirety.
Considering the vast elusiveness of the Act, this analysis focuses on the activities of the
Sovereignty Protection Office and only provides examples and does not aim to list all potential
breaches of EU law.

As the first step of an infringement procedure, the European Commission has decided to send a
formal notice to Hungary on 7 February. While the Commission provided two months for
Hungary to respond, taking into consideration the irreversible harm the Act may cause, the
Commission shall expedite the procedure once it receives a response. In case it decides to turn to
the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), the Commission shall request the suspension
of the application of the Act as an interim measure.