Does identity matter?
Keywords:constitutionalism, identity, European Union and Member States
During Brexit campaign leave supporters reckoned that their sovereignty is priceless. They meant that Britain’s status within or outside the European Union should not be decided upon economic reasons only. The campaign was successful and now the Kingdom is paying the price of her sovereignty. In Hungary in 2015 the government decided to ban shops to open on Sundays which was against the aspirations of both enterprises and consumers. The government found the measure so symbolic, so close to its identity that it did not respect any criticism. The government paid the political price of the unpopularity of the measure. Later on the government realised that the stake was too high and withdrew the piece of legislation. Such events clearly highlight that maintaining identity always has its price. Such price can be either economic or political. The question is if governments are ready to pay the price. It does not seem proper if mere economic and political expectations overrule symbolic issues. Neither it is acceptable if the government gives the nation’s entire fortune for symbolic reasons. It must always be considered how much identity costs and if it is worth paying the price. The question can be answered upon the identity test that has two factors: first how important the issue is (how close it is to identity) and if the price of identity is proportionate to the economic, political price. The more important the issue is the greater price can be paid. And conversely, the greater the economic or political price is, the more cautious one should be. The present article sums up the most basic information on constitutional identity and analyses the factors of the identity of the Hungarian constitution, the Basic Law, with special attention to the contemporary identity debate. It argues that constitutional identity is not a strict and non-changing phenomenon but rather the procedure of continuous development.
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