MacCormick Seminar abstract

From Political to Ethnic Community: The Hungarian Fundamental Law on the Ethnic Nation’s Will 

Dr Balazs Majtenyi (Hungarian Academy of Sciences – Eötvös Loránd University)

Through the review of the illiberal constitution of Hungary the presentation examines the conflict between the universal values of human rights and the particularistic national identity of political communities. There are no international and European standards directly applicable to questions concerning the national identity of political communities like, for example, the concept of the nation or ideological references used in a constitution by defining political community. The national identity of political communities, at the same time, might cause legitimate concerns for liberal democracy. The presentation analyzes the process by which the neutral (in the dominant universal and cultural sense) Hungarian constitutional identity moved toward one of cultural particularism, ethnically-based political community. It examines how an antiegalitarian version of the ethnic concept of nation has been given primary role in the Hungarian constitution (Fundamental Law, 2011).

The move to the primacy of particularistic values in Hungarian public law is examined in the context of the legal system of the European Union, acknowledging that the liberal model of constitutional democracies (as supported by the EU) is based on human rights, the rule of law, equality before the law, and procedural values. The presentation tries to answer the question what (if anything) can limit the identity-building project vis a vis universal values in public law.

Upcoming event – MacCormick Seminar

Tuesday 15th November 3pm

Dr Balazs Majtenyi (Hungarian Academy of Sciences – Eötvös Loránd University), current MacCormick visiting fellow at Edinburgh University, will offer a seminar entitled “From Political to Ethnic Community: What the Hungarian Fundamental Law says about the Ethnic Nation’s Will”.

Venue: Neil MacCormick Room (Rm 9.01), David Hume Tower

Abstract for today’s seminar 3 pm Neil MacCormick Room 9.01, David Hume Tower

‘Whatever people say I am, that’s what I’m not.’

Dr Alison L Young, Professor of Public Law, Hertford College, University of Oxford.

Accounts of democratic dialogue tend to get a bad press and it is easy to understand why. They appear to promise to provide a resolution of the apparent tension between constitutional and parliamentary protections of rights, ensuring that courts are able to protect rights sufficiently to deal with perceived tyrannies of the majority, whilst promising a sufficient remedy to the democratic deficit criticism that arises whenever courts are empowered to strike down legislation. However, a brief overview of those legal systems which had adopted the commonwealth model, the model designed to facilitate dialogue, would appear to suggest that the model collapses all too easily in practice into either a constitutional or parliamentary protection of rights in all but name. This chapter will argue that these difficulties are not because dialogue is wrong; but because we misunderstand what dialogue means.

First, arguments abound that dialogue can provide a middle way between legal and political protections of rights. However, this argument is difficult to make as it is hard to find any account of legal or political constitutionalism which advocates that only courts or only the legislature should play a role in the protection of rights. Second, dialogue appears to be unique because it looks at dynamic interactions and exchanges, rather than relying on a static account of rights to which legislatures and executives are meant to comply. However, dynamic interactions are advocated by theorists that we would traditionally regard as legal or political constitutionalists. Third, dialogue is connected with commonwealth models of constitutionalism. However, dialogue can take place in legal systems with a constitutional and a parliamentary protection of rights and, depending on how these institutions interact with each other, it may not occur in legal systems which have adopted a commonwealth model of rights protections. In other words, democratic dialogue appears to be either ubiquitous or non-existent.

If we are to understand dialogue properly we need to recognise its role as a constitutional model, focusing on analysing interactions between institutions. The role of dialogue is to provide an account of those interactions which are better able to facilitate the many purposes of democratic dialogue – a better protection of rights, the facilitation of deliberation, the engagement of the public more broadly in the determination of rights and acting as check and balance between the institutions of the constitution in a manner that provides an important pressure valve. This chapter will outline these aims and explain how these may be easier to achieve in commonwealth models of rights protection.

New Autumn Schedule

Welcome back! We have a fantastic line up of speakers this semester beginning on 27th September at 3pm (Neil MacCormick Room (Rm 9.01), David Hume Tower, George Square).

Dr Paul Kildea for The University of New South Wales is presenting on

‘Australia’s Plebiscite on Same-Sex Marriage: Unchartered Territory in the Use and Regulation of Direct Democracy’



Upcoming CLDG events

We have four great events coming up over the next two weeks.

Prof David KENNY, School of Law, Trinity College Dublin

A Right to Assisted Suicide in Ireland and Canada: The Promise and the Perils of Comparative Constitutional Law

26 April, 3pm Ken Mason Suite


Prof Gavin PHILLIPSON, Durham Law School

The Proposed ‘British’ Bill of Rights: Cosmetic or Substantive?

28 April, 4pm │ Rm 13A, 7 Bristo Square


Dr Katie BOYLE, University of Roehampton

Human Rights, Citizenship and Deliberating Constitutional Transitions: Scotland in a Changing UK and Europe

3 May, 3pm Rm 13A, 7 Bristo Square


Dr Tom Gerald DALY, Edinburgh Centre for Constitutional Law

The Democratic Recession and the ‘New’ Public Law: Toward Systematic Analysis

5 May, 3pm Rm 2.30, 15 Buccleuch Place