Dr. Kovács Tímea: A magyar magánjog története napjainkig: ’Historical background of the Hungarian private law’
The development of Hungarian private law as customary law principally resembles that of English private law, characterised by building on original national grounds and rarely experiencing influence by foreign laws. While presenting the development of Hungarian private law, the process may be divided into five historical periods.
The first period identified lasts from the founding of the modern Hungarian State (in 1000 A.D.) until the sixteenth century, when ISTVÁN WERBŐCZY was commissioned to provide the first restatement of Hungary’s customary law. This period is characterised by autonomous development free from foreign influence, relying exclusively on traditional basics. The restatement called TRIPARTITUM OPUS JURIS CONSUETUDINARII INCLYTI REGNI HUNGARIAE was finished in 1514, however, it never came into wide circulation. Nevertheless, the TRIPARTITUM has served as a primary source of customary private law and preserved for centuries the unity of Hungarian private law.
The second period lasts until 1848, considered the date of transition from a feudalistic to a civil society. In 1584 the CORPUS JURIS HUNGARICI was published as edited by ZAKARIÁS MOSÓCZY and MIKLÓS TELEGDY, a collection of the laws in force, though focused on public law including also sources of private law. The case law was served by the PLANUM TABULARE approved by all sessions of the Royal Hungarian Curia and binding from 1769, initiated by Maria Theresa. These three works are considered the pillars of Hungarian private law until transformation in 1848.
The third period lasts until the end of the Second World War, the beginning of the Soviet influence. The so-called “LAWS OF 1848” introduced the concept of civil equality and a civil legal order based on private property. After the end of the War of Independence in 1849, a period of influence of the Austrian Civil Code began until 1861, when the traditional law – again in the form of written customary law – was reinstated by the document called Provisional Judiciary Rules, also concerning the private law. Nevertheless, in this period the Hungarian legal science came under the influence of Austrian-German-Roman legal scholarship. From 1867 – the year of the constitutional settlement with Austria – a modern and intensive process of legal development had started. In 1875 the Commercial Code (Kereskedelmi törvény) was enacted, modelled after the German Commercial Code (Allgemeines Deutsches Handelsgesetzbuch), but nonetheless including independent concepts in several areas, which had significant impact on the development of the key concepts of Hungarian private law. This period is characterised by codification attempts, between 1880 and 1885 drafts covering almost the complete area of private law (except family law) were prepared, and finally in 1895 a codification commission was set up, who presented the first Draft of the Civil Code in 1900. The Draft underwent several reviews, and finally in 1928 the revised fourth Draft – significantly influenced by the German Civil Code and the Swiss Civil Code – under the name LEGISLATIVE PROPOSAL ON THE PRIVATE LAW CODE FOR HUNGARY (Magyarország Magánjogi Törvénykönyvének Törvényjavaslata – often cited as “Mtj.”) came before the House of Representatives, but was never adopted. Nevertheless, judicial practice accepted it as a restatement and it has served – like the TRIPARTITUM – as a written source of customary private law for decades. From a systematic point of view, the Codex follows the make-up of the Swiss Civil Code: it does not include a general part, the law of persons and family law is followed by the property law, law of obligations and finally inheritance law. Another recognisable impact of the Swiss Civil Code is the breakthrough of the principle of inviolability of property, particularly that of contractual freedom and pacta sunt servanda.
The fourth period concerns the era of Soviet influence. In 1953 the elaboration of a civil code was started and the first draft of the Civil Code was presented in 1956. After the 1956 Revolution and War of Independence against the Soviet influence, in 1957 a second draft was presented to then adopted by the Hungarian Parliament in 1959. The Civil Code became law on 1st May 1960. One idea behind adopting a Civil Code was to break with traditions of the historically developed Hungarian private law. In this respect it differs from any prior attempts. The Introductory Decree § 5 (1) declares explicitly the stand alone character of this Civil Code, which is indicative of a political message of that time: “The provisions of the Civil Code may not be interpreted according to legal principles developed in case law prior to its entering into force.” The Civil Code suffered its first significant amendment in 1977 (also called Fundamental Revision of the Civil Code), and from the 1980s the Civil Code has been subject to more than sixty further amendments. The amendments from 1991 and 1993 affected the integral structure of the Civil Code, while others focused on certain areas, e.g. revision of the field concerning proprietary securities, standard form contract terms (1997), provisions on warranty and guarantee (2002), etc., mainly related to the system transformation and influenced by European (EC) guidelines. Nevertheless, the Hungarian Codex was not entirely comprehensive. Other private law provisions were to be found in several external special laws as well (e.g. family law, company law, land registration).
The fifth period concerns the period of change of the political and economic system from the middle of the 1980s until the present day, and its impact to the whole legal system. This period is characterized by the reorientation of private law, owing to the Europeanisation of private law and indeed law generally. Following a Government Decision, in 1998 the preparatory work for a new Civil Code began, and the revised draft concept of the new Civil Code was approved by the Government in 2003, and the concrete codification assignments begun. In the course of 2006, the First Draft of the Academic Codification Committee was published, in successive books, on the website of the Hungarian Ministry of Justice, initiating the public debate on the First Draft. The Second Draft was then made accessible for public debate at the end of October 2007, again being prepared by the Ministry of Justice. In March 2008 the so-called Expert Proposal on the Civil Code for Hungary was published as the final text of the Academic Codification Committee. On 5th June 2008 the Legislative Proposal on the Civil Code was submitted to the Parliament, being the text prepared by the Ministry of Justice. At the end of the process the new Civil Code was adopted by the Hungarian Parliament in 2013, and became law on 15th March 2014.
A fenti szöveg alapja Szilágyi Ferenc: National Report on the Transfer of Movables in Hungary (In: National Reports on the Transfer of Movables in Europe Volume 3: Germany, Greece, Lithuania, Hungary edited by Wolfgang Faber / Brigitta Lurger) tanulmánya.
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