What Kind of City Is This?

Perceptive readers may recall that in my introduction of our Hungarian Perspective on September 4, 2023, I did bring up the story of a troubled woman who arrived to Paris to murder Jean-Paul Marat, and before she carried out this awful deed she got caught up with the horrors of Paris in transition.  What kind of city is this?  – she would repeat the same question in a catatonic manner before she rang the doorbell on Marat’s home.  Surely, what kind of city is this?  As I have noted in my first post, the question, pertaining to this country, will come up in this Blog a number of times from different aspects.

I must say that I never intended to exclude villages and small towns from the inquiry of what kind they are.  If something takes place in rural settings, villages, this also qualifies to the generic question: What kind of city is this?  Here we have a telling story which advises you a fair bit of what kind of a country, city and village life we experience in Hungary.

You need to know (before you come to Hungary or when you are already here) that there is a war related emergency regime in place in Hungary since February 2022.  There have been many other forms of martial law type arrangements in this country before Russia decided to overrun Ukraine.  As there is a bloody war in the Eastern and Southern regions of Ukraine, we, a Western neighbor felt compelled to declare a war-inspired state of emergency.  This emergency regime is enshrined into a sois-disant constitutional instrument (whose name is Basic Law), and under the powers given to the executive by the emergency authorization, many areas of life are regulated by decrees.  This way the solid majority, which has always had the power to amend this constitution-like Basic Law, may dispense with governing by Acts of Parliament (not that it would not be just as easy to push through legislation in forms of such Acts).

No matter how obnoxious and preposterous this emergency power may be, one would still assume that any decree promulgated under the war emergency power mandate has some, albeit remote, connection with the ongoing war in the Ukraine.  Look at this regulation and judge it yourselves.

There is a general rule in Hungary in place for many years that in the event you want to purchase agricultural land, including, among other things, forests or vineyards, certain land owners adjacent to, or within proximity of, the property intended for sale do possess a Right of First Refusal.  This means that if you obtain a binding offer for your property from a bona fide purchaser, then, under this rule of Right of First Refusal, you must offer the purchase offer received by you to those eligible property owners that own land in proximity, and if any of these owners accepts the third-party offer, he or she can acquire the property you intended to purchase.  This is the essence of the Right of First Refusal.  So far so good.  This rule was designed to protect the interests of adjacent landowners or other holders of title within proximity.  This may make some sense in certain settings if the legislature wishes to protect the interests of local landowners.

Then on a nice September morning (it was September 6, 2023) you wake up to read a two-paragraph decree, which in reliance upon the war emergency powers, decrees the Right of First Refusal regime to be inapplicable to forest land and vineyard.  Forests and vineyards are suddenly exempted.  If you want to sell (or want to purchase) new forest land or vineyard (or both), no local landowner may snatch the land under the Right of First Refusal.  You sell to whomever you wish to sell, if you wish to purchase, no local landowner may come out ahead of you.

Why is this so?  On the street I hear that someone within the extended royal family or a big wig vassal landowner wants to buy forest or good vineyards.  They do not want to risk of being faced with a recalcitrant landowner exercising the Right of First Refusal.  Oddly enough, the decree, in a third paragraph, also provides that the special exemption be applicable with respect to ongoing purchase transactions and registration processes before the local Land Register.  What this means is that if you wanted to purchase a nice forest near a Nottingham like city or purchase a prestigious vineyard in the Tokai region, and a local landowner came up with the intent of exercising his or her Right of First Refusal, this Right of First Refusal is no longer good.  The war related emergency powers were used to dispense with this time-honored arrangement embodied in the Right of First Refusal.  If someone were to exercise this right unadvisedly when our royal family member or otherwise big wig oligarch made a purchase offer, protected third party landowners can no longer frustrate the transaction by exercising their Right of First Refusal.

These things happen in this kind of city.  And what is equally disturbing is that no one, I mean no one, can seek a review of the constitutionality of this Decree before a court of law or the almighty pussy cat constitutional court.  Well, I must say that in our city of the old country, for this purpose be it Strasburg, Pennsylvania (yes, an Amish town), this Decree would be, without doubt, an unconstitutional act as plainly “arbitrary capricious and unreasonable” regulation.  In our city here in Hungary, however, arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable legislation and decree-governance make up the very essence of good governance.

Andras I. Hanak

One comment

  1. In this kind of city the average user stopped thinking and putting pieces together a while ago. It doesn’t hurt enough for all others to really start shouting for change. People still have too much to loose.
    It’s not all to blame on a single regime, but big chances were missed in the last decade to get to the same level as ‘Western Europe’. Romania for example is a bigger contributor to the EU GDP than Hungary, even bigger than Czech in 2021.
    Mainstream media in Hungary tends to talk about only the achievements of the current regime (even if it’s a slippery slope), and that’s the only media a lot of people have access to.
    Checks and balances ceased to exist. That kind of city it is.

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