Brussels / Budapest – The Hungarian government’s Emergency Law is clearly opposed. EU Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen opposed such steps on Tuesday – without naming Budapest by name.
The Hungarian Helsinki Committee, which is committed to respecting human rights in the country, was also concerned.
Several EU countries had recently introduced emergency laws in the fight against the corona pandemic. Hungarian right-wing Prime Minister Viktor Orban went particularly far. On Monday, he had been granted extensive powers of attorney by Parliament. President Janos Ader signed the law on the same day, and it entered into force on Tuesday.
It enables Orban to govern on the ordinance without a time limit. Parliament can also decide to end the emergency. At the same time, however, the law states that the powers of attorney will remain in force if the parliament is unable to do so. However, the law remains vague on this point. It does not contain any criteria for when Parliament is deemed to be prevented. In addition, Orban’s Fidesz party represents an absolute majority and would hardly decide to end the emergency without the approval of the head of government.
Further provisions state that no elections and referenda may take place during the emergency. In addition, penalties for violations of quarantine regulations and for the distribution of false messages have been significantly tightened. Journalists fear that they could face prison terms for critical reporting.
Due to the alleged restriction of civil and fundamental rights, a fundamental procedure against Hungary is already underway, which can theoretically lead to the withdrawal of voting rights in the Union. However, there is little progress. Critics have accused Orban of dismantling the rule of law and restricting freedom of the press for years.
The EU Commission, which is responsible for the monitoring of EU law in the international community, did not announce any immediate steps against the law on Tuesday, but first wants to monitor its application. “All emergency measures must be limited to what is necessary and strictly proportionate. They cannot last indefinitely, “said von der Leyen. Free reporting is more important than ever. Emergency measures should not come at the expense of basic values. A spokesman for the commission added that the college of EU commissioners will discuss the emergency laws of the EU states on Wednesday.
Green European politician Ska Keller said Orban was using the Corona crisis for political purposes. Special measures are in principle possible in exceptional situations. However, they would have to be reasonable and temporary. “In Hungary, it is evident that it has very little to do with limited action in an exceptional situation. Prime Minister Viktor Orban is using the occasion to expand his power, “said the leader of the parliamentary group in the European Parliament of the German press agency in Brussels.
The Hungarian Helsinki Committee wants to step up its activities in the face of the Emergency Law. This is done in order to “counter the destruction of the rule of law”. “From now on, the Hungarian parliament as the legislative body that represents the citizens has been practically closed,” it said. In the absence of a properly functioning parliament, civil control of the government and its institutions through the press, human rights, and other civil organizations will become even more important.