International Treaties

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Environmental Crime Legal Framework In Hungary

Hungary’s Constitution contains many provisions for the protection of the environment, highlighting the intersections between ecological integrity and biological integrity. For example, Article 20 reads:

  • “Every person shall have the right to physical and mental health.
  • Hungary shall promote the exercise of the right set out in Paragraph (1) by ensuring that its agriculture remains free from any genetically modified organism, by providing access to healthy food and drinking water, by managing industrial safety and healthcare, by supporting sports and regular physical exercise, and by ensuring environmental protection.”

    Article 21 states:
  • “Hungary shall recognise and enforce the right of every person to a healthy Environment.
  • A person who causes any damage to the environment shall be obliged to restore it or to bear all costs of restoration as defined by law.
  • No pollutant waste shall be brought into Hungary for the purpose of dumping.
  • • All natural resources, especially agricultural land, forests and drinking water supplies, biodiversity – in particular native plant and animal species – and cultural assets shall form part of the nation’s common heritage, and the State and every person shall be obliged to protect, sustain and preserve them for future generations.”
  • Featured Legislation

    1987: The Ministry for Environment was created, administering environmental policy planning, as well as coordination of environmental policy measures. Other ministries involved in environmental policy implementation include: Transport, Communication and Water Management; Agriculture and Regional Development; Economic Affairs; National Cultural Heritage; and Health.

    1995: Act LIII (On the General Rules of Environmental Protection) was enacted. The objective of the Act is to develop a harmonious relationship between humans and their environment, to protect the components and processes of the environment and to provide for the environmental conditions of sustainable development.

    1996: A Government Decree was instituted, clearly defining the responsibilities of the generator, and licences for handling and disposal of hazardous waste. A special remediation programme was also adopted in 1996. The programme conducts a survey of sites contaminated by past military and industrial activities, launching clean-up measures.

    1996: Legislation on the protection of forests and on nature conservation was created. Four new national parks were established one year later, resulting in the protection of all bogs, caves and grave mounds. As a result of the legislation, several previously threatened species were reintroduced.

    1996: The Hungarian Transport Policy was established to implement stringent vehicle emissions standards and an in-use vehicle emissions inspection programme. Differentiated import duties, excise taxes and VATs were all used to encourage the purchase of newer, more energy-efficient and cleaner vehicles.

    1997: The first National Environmental Programme was adopted by Parliament, overseeing the implementation of environmental policies to strengthen environmental infrastructure; ii) better integrate environmental concerns in economic decisions; and iii) further the country’s international environmental efforts.

    1998: A Government Programme for 1998 to 2002 was introduced as a legal harmonisation programme with the aim of achieving complete approximation of Hungarian environmental laws with EU legislation.

    2013: Hungary’s 2014-2020 national waste management plan was  adopted.  For streams of waste dealt with by public service providers (mostly municipal waste), Hungary’s national waste management plan is complemented by its annual national waste management service plans.

    2014: Hungary presented its national smart specialisation strategy, which includes  clean and renewable energies and sustainable environment as priority areas.

    2015: Hungary adopted its National Energy Efficiency Action Plan, which aims at reducing Hungary’s energy dependence,  boosting its share of renewable energy sources.

    Featured Case Studies: Transnational Environmental Crime, Human Security, and Biosecurity

    • In 2019: A watershed moment occurred when environmental liability regimes were reassessed in two judgments by Hungarian courts. The judgements clarified certain aspects of environmental liability, advancing environmental justice. Hungary features many contaminated sites that await clean-up; in most cases, the obstacle to clean-up efforts is poor interpretation and application of liability principles. However, in 2019: An industrial site located in Kén street of the 9th District of Budapest was reviewed by one judge. The site has been contaminated by hydrocarbons and is surrounded by other industrial estates and a cargo railway station. The area, which is owned by a number of natural as well as legal persons, has been abandoned because of the lack of coordination and funding in clean-up efforts. The liability of these owners was clarified by the presiding judge, which resulted in an obligation of all owners to undertake the assessment of pollution by a given deadline. The owner of one of these estates located in the area complained and claimed not to be liable for the pollution of an estate owned by another company. The court accepted the reasoning of the applicant, declaring joint liability for the pollution of the environment will prevail for a distinct piece of land only, which must be registered as a separate unit in the Land Registry. Another judgment put an end to the criminal procedure following the deadly red mud slide of 2010 in Kolontar, Hungary. The industrial accident resulted in the release of approximately one million cubic metres (35 million cubic feet) of liquid waste from red mud lakes. The mud flooded several nearby localities, including the village of Kolontár and the town of Devecser. Ten people died, and 150 people were injured. The CEO and a number of technical staff of the company including engineers were finally indicted. The former CEO of the Hungarian Aluminum Co. (MAL Zrt.) was sentenced to 4 years, while the former technical director of the company was sentenced to 3 years imprisonment, with no probation. The crimes committed were “causing a public emergency” and “breach of waste management regulations”.

    References and Further Reading


    Ministry of Agriculture: