Hungary’s emergency law that allows Prime Minister Viktor Orbán to rule by decree without time limits is incompatible with being in the EU, the liberal group of the European parliament said Tuesday.
By adopting measures apparently to deal with the coronavirus, the Hungarian parliament voted on Monday to give Orbán the power to rule by decree without a clear end date. The law also introduces terms of detention to spread misinformation about the virus, raising concerns that could be used to neutralize the government’s approach to neutrality.
Sophie in ‘Veld, a Dutch liberal MP, who chairs the Rule of Law Group of the European Parliament, said: “Viktor Orbán has completed his project to kill democracy and the rule of law in Hungary. Clearly, the actions of the Hungarian government are incompatible with EU membership. “
Dacian Çiolos, a former Romanian prime minister and European commissioner who now leads the liberal group, said that “it is shameful that this terrible crown is abused in this way”.
The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, released a statement on Tuesday calling for all emergency measures to be “limited to what is necessary and strictly proportionate” and not to last indefinitely. “It is of the utmost importance that emergency measures are not to the detriment of our fundamental principles and values set out in the treaties,” said Von der Leyen in a statement that did not mention Hungary.
The message from Washington was more direct. Eliot L Engel, the chairman of the United States House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs, said that Orbán is doing “blatant power-taking power in the face of the worst global health crisis in recent history. This legislation marginalizes the Hungarian parliament and allows Prime Minister Orbán to rule by decree as a dictator.
“Such a serious affront to democracy everywhere is scandalous, particularly within a NATO ally and member of the EU.”
Katalin Cseh, a Hungarian MP for the centrist Momentum party, urged the commission to engage with Hungary on the law last week once it was clear that Orbán was in the process of securing the law with his two-thirds majority in parliament Hungarian.
“In a democracy, we should never give anyone unlimited powers or unlimited time. It’s not about trusting Orbán. It’s really about our basic perception of democracy … There should always be checks and balances. This law is contrary to my perception of parliamentary democracy “.
Norbert Röttgen, head of the German Bundestag Foreign Affairs Committee and running candidate to succeed Angela Merkel as chancellor, also condemned the law, writing on Twitter that he “effectively eliminates the opposition” and violated the basic principles of the EU “I can’t accept”.
Others have accused EU authorities and member states in the EU Council of Ministers of not speaking, following Hungary’s sharp drop in democratic freedoms over the past 10 years, measured by international organizations such as Freedom House and the Article 19. “The silence from the committee chairman and the board are deafening,” said Veld.
In response to Von der Leyen’s statement, Orbán spokesman Zoltán Kovács said that the Hungarian state of emergency and extraordinary measures were “congruent with the Hungarian treaties and constitution and aimed solely at fighting coronavirus”.
He said the law supported EU values, the rule of law, press freedom, while accusing critics of being misinformed.