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Coronavirus Bill: War of Words between Juncker and Orbán Gov’t on Rule of Law in Hungary

Fanni Kaszás 2020.04.14.

In an interview, Jean-Claude Juncker, the previous President of the European Commission, said in an interview that Hungary has exceeded all reasonable limits with passing the bill on the indefinite extension of special rights of the government, which enables them to rule by decrees without a deadline (in relation to measures needed in the fight against the pandemic). Juncker said he would have expected more decisive action against the so-called authorization law, or coronavirus bill, from the European Commission.

Juncker told Politico in an interview last week that the European Commission should not only have “worried about the law in general,” but they should have specifically mentioned Hungary. Although he also acknowledged that the situation would not change significantly in that case either, he said that the Hungarian government has exceeded all reasonable limits with pushing the bill through, which indefinitely extends the validity of the government’s decrees during a state-of-emergency. (Read more about what exactly is in the law here).

Naming Hungary “would have had no immediate effect, but it would have made the course of the front lines clearer,” Juncker said, adding that “When it comes to the rule of law standard, it is not wishy-washy, but plain language that counts.”

Justice Minister Judit Varga responded to Juncker’s statement on her social media sites. Varga wrote that Jean-Claude Juncker “once again made his voice heard in the columns of Politico and urged simple, clear speech on the Hungarian coronavirus law. We agree with him. However, for a start, it would be enough that those who feel compelled to attack Hungary once again in the middle of a pandemic instead of defending themselves [from the virus], at least would take the trouble to read the three paged law.”

She also added that “contrary to the statement of the former President of the European Commission, the EU should not have formulated a much stronger response to the decision of the Hungarian Parliament, but should have prepared a properly coordinated action against the virus and provided immediate assistance to Europeans in trouble, instead of criticising the Member States.”

Varga closed her lines by saying that “as the Prime Minister has said, if someone can no longer help in an emergency, at least do not hinder our efforts. We wish President Jean-Claude Juncker many more years of happy retirement in good health.”

At the beginning of April, 13 members of the European People’s Party called for Fidesz to be expelled from the party family in a joint letter addressed to EPP President Donald Tusk. Additionally, 13 EU member states issued a joint statement, which only implied, yet clearly referred to Hungary’s newly adopted emergency regulation and raised concerns over it. Since its publishing, many more countries have joined, and ironically, even Hungary signed the statement.

Orbán Gov’t Joins Countries Criticizing Hungarian Emergency Powers without Naming Country and Gov’t

Current President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, was a little more specific about the issue, saying she understood that member states needed to make emergency laws, but was concerned that some laws were going too far. She even said that she was particularly concerned about the Hungarian situation. The Hungarian government regularly rejects concerns, saying that it does not endanger democracy and that Viktor Orbán can govern by decree during the emergency – without a deadline.

featured photo: Balázs Szecsődi/Miniszterelnöki Sajtóiroda

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