Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has sent a letter to the party leaders of the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP), accusing both political opponents and allies of spreading fake news about the Hungarian coronavirus law that enabled his government to rule by decree without set time limits.
“In the recent weeks, we have witnessed an unprecedented attack and disinformation campaign against Hungary,” wrote Orbán, describing the attack as “cruel”.
“It’s the most cynical one I ever experienced because it deliberately disregarded that the government, which was targeted, was desperately fighting for saving human lives.”
Orbán pointed to the fact the Hungarian parliament has been in session ever since the law was passed, adding that “the competence to terminate the state of danger or any decree taken by the government was handed over to the parliament.”
While the parliament is able to withdraw the new powers given to the government, the power to end the state of danger, the Hungarian equivalent of the state of emergency, remained with the government as being set in the Constitution, said civil rights watchdog Hungarian Helsinki Committee in their analysis of the law.
In early April, thirteen of Europe’s centre-right political leaders asked Donald Tusk, the EPP president, to expel Orbán’s Fidesz party from its ranks.
The letter was signed by leaders from Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Greece, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Slovakia and Sweden.
“The law passed by the Hungarian parliament on 30 March, which allows the Hungarian government to indefinitely extend the country’s state of emergency and allows Prime Minister Viktor Orbán to rule by decree, this is a clear violation of the founding principles of liberal democracy and European values,” the letter stated.
Orbán lashed out at his critics, writing that “our formal political opponents, but more worryingly, some EPP politicians, too, have been actively involved in spreading fake news.”
The European Commission has so far refrained from joining in the criticism.
“I studied very thoroughly the [Hungarian] law and I have to say that when we read the law itself it doesn’t raise a reason for starting the infringement procedure, yet,” the EU’s Values and Transparency Commissioner, Věra Jourová, had said.
“I have to emphasise ‘yet’, because we are following very closely what the Hungarian government is doing and how it’s using very wide discretionary powers, especially for issuing the governmental decrees,” she added.
Orbán went on to say that “MEPs have ridiculed themselves and the institution they belong to” by “citing some of these lies” in the European Parliament resolution that condemned Hungary’s coronavirus law.
“Soon we should decide whether we let ourselves be divided and weakened further or stand united and continue as the leading conservative driving force in European politics,” the Hungarian leader added.
[Edited by Sarantis Michalopoulos]