The Individual and the Environment: the New Hungarian Civil Code

Author:Mate Julesz
Position:University of Szeged, Hungary
Pages:1-5
The Open Law Journal, 2010, 3, 1-5 1
1874-950X/10 2010 Bentham Open
Open Access
The Individual and the Environment: the New Hungarian Civil Code
Mate Julesz*
University of Szeged, Hungary
Abstract: This publication is devoted to various means of ensuring the collective rights of individuals to a healthy envi-
ronment, and in particular to a special instrument of law, the actio popularis. The histo ry of this dates back to ancient
times, though its current forms are not identical with those of Roman law. This legal institution is used in many countries
of the world, and not solely for environment protection. Consumer protection and environment protection are correlated
both in law and in other social domains. The public prosecutor and the green ombudsman have special rights in the area of
environment protection, and the ordinary citizen too should have the right to take steps to defend the natural and civiliza-
tional environments. The new Hungarian Civil Code, due to come into effect on May 1, 2010, is designed to be an envi-
ronmentalist civil code which considers the ancient dilemma of collectivist and/or individualist treatment of social prob-
lems. The tools of private law will be adapted to the level of public law in the service of environment protection. The
goals are given: the existing and the forthcoming regulations are to be adequately implemented under the auspices of envi-
ronment-consciousness.
Keywords: Environmental law, partaking democracy, environmental civil activity, environmental private law, social changes,
environmental sociology.
THE OUTL INES OF A (BRAV E?) NEW WORLD
Can we see the outlines of a really brave and new world
order in which environmentalist aspects are predominate?
Would a new environmentalist world order truly fulfil the
expectations of the individual and the state? Can an accept-
able compromise be found for all concerned? September 22,
2009 saw the start in New York, under the auspices of the
United Nations Organization, of an 80-day countdown lead-
ing up to the Copenhagen summit meeting on climate change
(December 7-18, 2009). The leaders of the major countries
have expressed their deep commitment to environment pro-
tection. In Europe, greenhouse gas emission was reduced by
3.06 per cent in 2008 as compared with a year earlier, though
50-60 per cent would be required to halt global warming.
Year by year, the ice surface of the Arctic is shrinking dra-
matically. The facts are given. The international community
expects regulations that can be implemented worldwide. A
really brave new world is needed to ward off the nightmare
of a Huxleyan new world.
Many experts believe that the cap and trade model of
emissions trading has not resulted in any decrease of green-
house gas emission. From the aspect of environmental phi-
losophy, environment protection cannot be based on the
pragmatism of commerce. A new solution is required to pre-
vent pollution and the irreversible destruction of the natural
environment. A new solution should not be restricted to the
level of states and huge companies, but should involve the
everyday man and woman and bring the cause of environ-
ment protection much closer to the citizen than ever before.
Emissions trading may be fruitful only after citizens have
*Address correspondence to this author at the University of Szeged,
Department of Public Health, Dom ter 10., H-6720 Szeged, Hungary;
Tel: 36-62-545119; Fax: 36-62-545120; E-mail: mate.julesz@citr omail.hu
had their voices heard and the leaders of states and global
companies see their personal environmental rights at stake,
or at least see their private interests meet the public interest
of protecting the natural environment.
Nowadays, the private interests of the few collide with
the public interests of the masses, whose weakness lies in
their poor access to legal weapons with which to fight for
their human rights, and their right to a healthy environment.
The latter is a special new form of human rights. The colli-
sion of private and public interests shows up clearly in the
domain of environment protection. A minority with eco-
nomic power should not exercise immoral or illegal pressure
on a majority not properly protected by law, and a majority
should not thrust aside the interests of minority groups, espe-
cially when these interests ar e based on public law.
Environmental justice must be seriously considered and
enacted by national parliaments; such justice on behalf of
minorities is inherent in a democracy of plural values. It is
the duty of the public at large to demonstrate respect and it is
the moral obligation of the minorities to coact in symbiosis
with the majority. Public interest is not always above private
interest, but it is nonetheless up to the public to define the
scope of functioning of private law. An appropriate legal
system must be in place to solve problems faced by indi-
viduals or social groups feeling a need for a common rem-
edy, or retributive justice. Acting for the people and acting
by the people are not in contrast. Individuals have both pub-
lic and private needs which at times may be in conflict with
each other; the public needs should generally have prefer-
ence over needs of personal or economic well-being. Though
private comfort is important, the legally and morally correct
requirements of a whole society should have priority in be-
ing protected by the law and before the law. The actio popu-
laris is a special instrument with the aim of improvement of
the genera l interest.

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