Hungary is demanding an apology from Finnish MEPs, academic researchers and prominent media outlets for “wrongly” criticising and spreading “false” arguments concerning the country’s emergency law enacted in the wake of the coronavirus crisis, according to letters sent by the Hungarian embassy in Helsinki.
The letters arrived in waves and their tone has varied from demands to pleas to correct information Hungary considers misleading.
“Hungary has been sending these letters during the spring. I received the kind of ‘educational’ one already in mid-April after I criticised the law giving the government extraordinary powers over the parliament without a time limit. A demand for an apology it did not contain,” tweeted MEP Ville Niinistö (Green), who was one of the first to receive a letter.
MEP Petri Sarvamaa (EPP) had also received a letter, which was signed by Secretary of State Zoltán Kovács, a supporter of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. MEP Sarvamaa, who had previously criticised Hungary’s emergency law for breaching EU law and the Hungarian Constitution, had described Hungary’s reactions as “disgusting”.
“[Hungarian reaction] doesn’t surprise me, but it is depressing. The way Hungary uses power exemplifies dark forces. We have seen them before in European history,” MEP Sarvamaa told the broadsheet Helsingin Sanomat, which had also received complaints.
“These tailor-made mass-postings speak for themselves about the means and the rhetoric of the Hungarian government. The newspaper continues to closely follow the situation in the country,” the editor-in-chief of Helsingin Sanomat, Kaius Niemi, said on Saturday (30 May).
The information bureau of the Hungarian government confirmed on Saturday (30 May) to the Finnish News Agency (STT) that the letters had been sent.
“We have distributed the letter through our diplomatic channels to media outlets and international parties spreading unfounded criticism and suggested that this would be an appropriate time for an apology,” it stated.
Meanwhile in Budapest, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said his government will conduct another nationwide survey this month asking Hungarians on a wide range of COVID-19 issues and economic measures. The questionnaire will reportedly also include a question on Hungarian-American billionaire George Soros, whom the government had previously accused of orchestrating the migration crisis in Europe, as well as for “his ‘plan’ to issue perpetual bonds,” which the PM has insisted would “lead to ‘debt slavery’.”
The survey is the latest in a series of taxpayer-funded questionnaires sent to citizens to legitimise government action.
Prior to the pandemic, the government was compelled by law to launch a ‘national consultation’ after the Hungarian parliament passed a law that prohibited authorities from executing court-ordered compensations in jail overcrowding cases until 15 June 2020.
Previous surveys asked households about their opinions on migration and EU policies, such as the state-run ‘information campaign’ called “Let’s stop Brussels”, which was criticised by former European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.
(Pekka Vänttinen, Vlagyiszlav Makszimov | EURACTIV.com)