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Criticism of Hungary’s law which enhanced government powers to tackle the novel coronavirus epidemic were “unwarranted”, Speaker of Parliament László Kövér said, arguing that the Hungarian government was among the first ones to relinquish its special powers.

The handling of the epidemic required a change of plans and that the government be granted special powers, Kövér said. The law handing the government those powers was a part of this, but parliament eventually terminated the government’s emergency powers, he noted.

In many European Union member states, parliament does not even have the authority to grant the government emergency powers the way the Hungarian constitution does, he said. So in many cases, a political agreement was needed to allow the legislative branch to grant the government special powers to manage the epidemic or the laws had to be changed, he explained.

Kövér said the reason why the Hungarian government was among the first ones to give up its emergency powers was because it had been “among the first ones to recognise the danger and tried to get ahead of it by enacting these measures”.

He said public support for the government’s epidemic response measures had transcended partisan boundaries. The Hungarian people’s trust in political institutions and the government is far greater than that of the European average, he added.

Though a vaccine against the virus is at least several months away, “we can perhaps say that the epidemic is over”, Kövér said. “But we must also consider — based on the experiences of the past six months — that globalisation has certain unexpected, albeit logical consequences that may threaten us again in the future,” he added.

Kövér called the current global economic model “unsustainable” and said personal relationships were becoming more valuable while “other things” were becoming less important. “It isn’t that important that we spend our holiday abroad.”

As regards the virus, Kövér said ruling Fidesz and the opposition parliamentary parties had agreed that in the absence of a second wave of the epidemic, parliament will return to holding its sessions in the lower chamber.

Gov’t Bills to End Special Emergency Powers on June 20th, May Allow Gov’t to Rule by Decree in Future During a Public Health Crisis

He said parliament over the past several months had looked out for the well-being of lawmakers who are in the age group considered more vulnerable to coronavirus. Since the ruling Fidesz-Christian Democrat alliance has a supermajority, these MPs were only required to be present for votes that required a two-thirds majority to pass, the speaker said.

Asked about the possibility of setting up a “digital parliament”, Kövér said he did not believe it was necessary, adding that there were also legal, technical and theoretical obstacles to such an arrangement.

He also said that despite the upheavals parliament had a relatively calm spring session compared to previous ones, “probably because the MPs have understood that there are certain things . that don’t belong in parliament”.

On the topic of the Black Lives Matter movement, Kövér said: “Every normal person was outraged by the incident that sparked it; this kind of police brutality is indefensible.” He added, however, that “the people who set the cities of the United States on fire are the same ones who can’t tolerate that Donald Trump is the US president and are using every means they can to prevent his re-election in November”.

Meanwhile, Kövér said there were some who believed that the decision-making power of traditional nation-states had come and gone and that the world required a new sort of decision-making mechanism. The concentration of power in the world economy demands decision-making rights, he said, adding that there was also pressure from financial capital “to make the world international”.

Asked about the EU presidency recently taken over by Germany, Kövér said he did not expect “much good” to come out of Germany’s EU leadership. Germany is the bloc’s leading power and it has certain national interests that it will concentrate on during the next six months, the speaker said. He added, at the same time, that he was confident that Germany was “wise enough” to strive for compromise among member states.

On another topic, he expressed disagreement with calls to tie receipt of EU funds to compliance with the standards regarding the rule of law, calling it “unacceptable” to reduce EU monies member states are entitled to based on political aspects.

Meanwhile, Kövér called the Visegrád Group comprising Hungary, the Czech Republic, Poland and Slovakia the EU’s fastest-growing region, which he said would make it one of the bloc’s most important players.

Featured photo illustration by Lajos Soós/MTI.

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