Sassoli to Orbán: you are welcome to debate but come in person

European Parliament President David Sassoli. [EPA-EFE/OLIVIER HOSLET]

European Parliament President David Sassoli has welcomed the Hungarian government’s wish to present its point of view during a debate on Budapest’s controversial coronavirus law but said Prime Minister Viktor Orbán should personally come to Brussels and take part in the discussions on Thursday (14 May).

“Let me say that I consider positive that on such important occasion the MEPs could also listen to the voice of the Hungarian government and I encourage it,” wrote Sassoli in a letter dated 12 May.

“Nevertheless, according to the established practice for such kind of debates, the appropriate level of participation is that of the head of state or government.”

Hungarian justice minister Judit Varga wrote a letter on Monday (11 May) asking for the possibility to participate in the debate and present Hungary’s position.

Earlier today Varga complained: “What is the difference between a debate and lynching? Democracy, equal treatment, due process.”

“I have asked again to give me the floor on behalf of the government since I was rejected yesterday,” the minister added.

The debate, where the European Commission and Council are expected to present a statement on the impact of the emergency legislation on the rule of law and fundamental rights in Hungary, was originally scheduled for Wednesday afternoon.

However, it has been rescheduled for 9 am the following day “to better balance the workload of the plenary,” a Parliament spokesperson told EURACTIV.

Sassoli also informed Orbán that “no remote participation is possible in the Chamber during the May part-session in Brussels, despite the current exceptional circumstances,” in light of a recent decision of the Parliament’s business and legislative planning body.

The Parliament passed a resolution last month that described the Hungarian government’s emergency coronavirus law as “totally incompatible with European values.”

EP condemns Hungary and Poland's controversial coronavirus moves

The European Parliament passed a resolution on Friday (17 April) describing the recent Hungarian and Polish government actions during the coronavirus outbreak as “totally incompatible with European values.”

The law has expanded the Hungarian government’s powers, allowing emergency decrees to stay in force until further notice. It also criminalised spreading misinformation that could negatively affect the effectiveness of the defence measures against the pandemic and made it punishable with one to five years of imprisonment.

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The Hungarian Parliament approved new emergency powers on Monday (30 March) that will allow the ruling Fidesz party the right to rule by decree, without a set time limit, in a move that prompted an outcry from human rights groups.

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

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