Gabor Halmai

senior fellow
EURIAS cohort 2015/2016
discipline Law
Professor of Law, Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest

Research project

The Rise and Fall of Post-Communist Constitutionalism The Case of Hungary and its Impact on the Future of Liberal Democracy in Central and Eastern Europe


The proposed research deals with the transformation of a liberal constitutional system to an illiberal one from both an empirical and a normative/theoretical perspective. The empirical study puts a concrete country, Hungary in the center of examination in a broader framework of constitutional democracy theory therefore being relevant for the area of legal and political sciences as well as contemporary history. The issue at hand is actual as it examines the constitutional backsliding that has taken place since 2010 but its relevance goes beyond the concrete case of Hungary to issues related to transition, democracy especially in the Central and East European region.


The first part of the Hungarian case study deals with the ‘rule of law revolution’ in 1989-1990. The second part is about the ’constitutional counter-revolution from 2010, when FIDESZ used its power to enact a new constitution, without any consensus or negotiation, but not with the intention to entrench constitutionalism, but ruther to constitutionally entrench its political preferences by weakening checks and balances of its power, and guarantees of rights. The third part tells the lessons to be learned from the Hungarian backsliding, looking for the reasons, the external and internal challenges, as well the future directions.  


The aim of the normative/theoretical aspect of the research is to elaborate the relationship and the interaction between constitutional culture and the constitutional law. This relationship will be examined regarding beliefs and values in the framework of the two major elements of a state governed by rule of law: separation of powers and fundamental rights. The concept of constitutionalism encompasses two very different elements: it is about order creation (formal constitutionalism) on one hand and participation and autonomy (constitutional culture) on the other.


The illustrative use of Hungary, and other country case studies, will assist the research to develop a theory on the role the lack of egalitarian empowerment of a citizenry through civic involvement, and the poor constitutional culture can contribute to the weakening of the liberal constitutional characteristic of post-totalitarian regimes after a democratic transition.




Gábor Halmai is professor of law at the Eötvös Loránd University/Budapest. Between 2011-2014 he was a visiting research scholar at Princeton University. Currently he is an EURIAS senior visiting fellow at the Institute for Human Sciences (IWM) in Vienna. Since 2003 he is the national director of the European Masters Program in Human Rights and Democratization in Venice. Between 2007-2010 he was member of the EU Fundamental Rights Agency’s Management Board, between 1990-97 as chief advisor to the President of the Hungarian Constitutional Court. His primary research interests are comparative constitutional law and human rights. He has published several books and articles, as well as editing volumes on these topics.

Selected publications


"Auswirkungen einer Übergangsjustiz auf die demokratische Konsolidierung in Mittel- und Osteuropa (Impact of Transitional Justice on democratic consolidation in Central and Eastern Europe)", in D. Merten & H.J. Papier (eds), Handbuch der Grundrechte in Deutschland und Europa Band IX: Die Grundrechte in Ostmitteleuropa und Osteuropa,  C.F. Müller, Heidelberg, 2015.


'Domestic Courts and International Human Rights', in A. Mihr & M. Gibney (eds), The SAGE Handbook of Human Rights, SAGE, London/Thousand Oaks/New Dehli/Singapore, 2014, pp. 749-767.


Perspectives on Global Constitutionalism. The Use of Foreign and International Law by Domestic Courts, Eleven International Publishing, Utrecht, 2014.


'An Illiberal Constitutional System in the Middle of Europe', in W. Benedek et al. (eds), European Yearbook of Human Rights, Wien/Graz, 2014, pp. 497-514.


'The Use of Foreign law in Constitutional Interpretation', in M. Rosenfeld & A. Sajo (eds), Oxford Handbook of Comparative Constitutional Law, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2012, pp. 1328-1348.


'From the ‘Rule of Law Revolution’ to the Constitutional Counter-Revolution in Hungary', in W. Benedek et al. (eds), European Yearbook of Human Rights, 2012, pp. 497-514.


'Unconstitutional Constitutional Amendments: Constitutional Courts as Guardians of the Constitution?', Constellations, vol. 19, no. 2, 2012, pp. 182-203.



senior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2013/2014
Institut für die Wissenschaften vom Menschen (IWM)
discipline Political Science
junior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2011/2012
Institut für die Wissenschaften vom Menschen (IWM)
discipline Political Science
senior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2016/2017
Institut für die Wissenschaften vom Menschen (IWM)
discipline Literature
senior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2018/2019
Institut für die Wissenschaften vom Menschen (IWM)
discipline History