Andras Sajo
Spring Term 1996
Department of Legal Studies, Budapest


This course presents basic problems of constitutionalism and human rights in the transition from Communism in East-Central Europe. It compares Western concepts of constitutions(i.e. bill of rights, separation of power, constitution as a higher law) as well as mechanisms for the protection of rights with the legal - political regimes that prevailed under Communism and which are now emerging.

The course begins with the analysis of the understanding of individual freedom, constitutionalism and rights in pre-Communist Central Europe. It claims that despite basic discontinuity, there were also numerous important linkages between pre-Communist and Communist Central Europe (i.e. the dominant role of the state and bureaucracy, a high prestige of the intelligentsia, paternalism and elitism weakness of the civil society, etc.)

Second part of the course begins with the need for constitutions and individual rights during the process of transitions. With the breakdown of the original anti-Communist consensus, with the emergence of political parties, and with growing conflicts between individual parties and between various centers of power, constitutional frameworks for transition are very much needed. On the other hand, the transformation to markets, the need to deal with frustrated expectations in bankrupt economies, the temptations of majoritarianism and nationalism, underline the necessity of enforcing constitutional rights which will put the limits on experimentation with basic rights of the individuals and minorities on the road to democracy.

Problems of constitution making and of the introduction of enforceable rights are the main subject of the second part of the course. It deals with basic problems of constitution - making in Hungary, Czech and Slovak Federal Republic and Poland, and presents main issues discussed in constitutional committees as well as in public debates. Of these, the separation of powers, the role of constitutions and the rules for its adoption and amendment as well as the protection of constitutions by judicial review, are the most important.

Part three outlines particular rights in post - Communist Central Europe. It spells out the need for rights in new democracies and emphasises a growing tension between economic freedoms necessary for the transition to market economy and traditional social and economic rights, unaffordable by bankrupt economies, nevertheless expected by the population and perhaps needed to keep democratic legitimization of the very process of transition. This reevaluation of economic and social rights along with the protection of minorities are becoming ever more important as post - Communist states are implementing and protecting civil and political rights of the citizens.

Digitized version prepared by the Curriculum Resource Center (CRC)
CEU Budapest, Hungary
Revised: April 1996


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