Hungary introduces state of emergency measures to address coronavirus pandemic

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Publication Date 2020
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Reports and analyses on the emergency measures introduced by Hungary's government and later approved by the Parliament, aimed at addressing the COVID-19 pandemic.

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The Hungarian government put forward on 20 March 2020 a draft law named 'Bill on Protection Against Coronavirus', containing a set of emergency measures that would allow the cabinet to rule by decree during the sanitary crisis. Parliamentary functions, elections and referendums would be suspended for the duration of the state of emergency. It would also introduce offences for obstructing the measures to affect the pandemic and for the spreading of misinformation. The draft law does not include a time-limit for the state of emergency, which would be decided by the cabinet.

Members of the Opposition stated that, while supporting the government's effort to manage the crisis, they wished for a time limit to the emergency powers requested in the draft law, subject to extension by the Parliament. The proposed amendments were all rejected by the chamber, whee the governing Fidesz party enjoys a two-thirds majority. The draft law was approved on 30 March 2020.

The package of measures alarmed international stakeholders and observers, fearing the handing over of unlimited powers to Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. Some acknowledged that the country eventually moved from an 'illiberal state' to a full-blown dictatorship.

The President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen reminded Member States on 31 March that emergency measures introduced in the framework of the fight against the COVID-19 outbreak should not last indefinitely. Ms von der Leyen also called for respect of freedom of expression, reminding that 'democracy cannot work without free and independent media'.

The plenary session of the European Parliament (EP) held a debate on the restrictive measures introduced in the country on 14 May. Concerns over the impact of the pandemic on rule of law and democracy had already been raised in a EP Resolution adopted in April 2020.

Related Links
Commentary and Analysis
Human Rights Watch, 19/03/2020: Hungary Weaponizes Coronavirus to Stoke Xenophobia
Euronews, 21/03/2020: Hungarians should be rising to the challenge of the coronavirus outbreak in spite of Orbán
GMFUS: Blog, 26/03/2020: Orbán Uses Coronavirus to Put Hungary’s Democracy in a State of Danger
Amnesty International: Press Release, 27/03/2020: Hungary: Emergency coronavirus law must not give Orbán 'indefinite and uncontrolled' powers
EurActiv, 27/03/2020: Coronavirus to father EU’s ‘first dicatatorship’?
New Statesman, 30/03/2020: How Viktor Orbán used the coronavirus crisis to hand himself unlimited power
Balkan Insight, 31/03/2020: Hungary no longer a Democracy after Coronavirus Law
Foreign Policy, 31/03/2020: The Shocking ‘Coronavirus Coup’ in Hungary Was a Wake-Up Call
Foreign Policy, 31/03/2020: Coronavirus and the Dawn of Post-Democratic Europe
Carnegie Europe: Strategic Europe, 31/03/2020: Orbán Exploits Coronavirus Pandemic to Destroy Hungary’s Democracy
The Conversation, 01/04/2020: Hungary’s Viktor Orbán now rules by decree in troubling example of how coronavirus fear enables authoritarians to tighten their grip
Wikipedia: 2020 coronavirus pandemic in Hungary
Social Europe, 01/04/2020: The coronavirus and the ‘quarantining’ of Hungarian democracy
Euro|topics, March-April 2020: Hungary's emergency law: how should the EU react?
The Atlantic, 03/04/2020: Creeping Authoritarianism Has Finally Prevailed
ICDS: Blog, 04/04/2020: Hungary’s “Coronavirus Law”: How Power Becomes Unlimited?
Euronews, 06/04/2020: Is Hungary dumping democracy amid coronavirus crisis?
Freedom House: Perspectives, 06/04/2020: Hungary’s Troubling Coronavirus Response
UCL: European Institute: Podcast, 07/04/2020: Hungary's Coronavirus Protection Law
New Yorker, 09/04/2020: How Viktor Orbán Used the Coronavirus to Seize More Power
Politico, 14/04/2020: What should the EU do about Hungary?, 21/04/2020: COVID-19 in Hungary: this is why the government is bracing for the worst
Balkan Insight, 23/04/2020: Viktor Orban: Hungary's Disease Dictator
EUCRIM: News, 26/04/2020: Rule-of-Law Developments in Hungary
EUObserver, 30/04/2020: Orban's risky bet in economic response to coronavirus
S&D Group: Newsroom, 14/05/2020: S&Ds: Without parliamentary scrutiny or free speech, Hungary is no longer a functioning democracy
Renew Europe Group: News, 14/05/2020: EU funding to Hungary must be strictly controlled by the Commission

Euronews, 23/03/2020: Coronavirus: Human rights alarm as Hungary seeks indefinite extension to state of emergency
Politico, 30/03/2020: Hungary’s Viktor Orbán wins vote to rule by decree
The Guardian, 30/03/2020: Hungary passes law that will let Orbán rule by decree
France 24, 30/03/2020: Hungary's Orban handed open-ended powers to fight coronavirus, alarming rights groups
BBC News, 30/03/2020: Coronavirus: Hungary government gets sweeping powers
Reuters, 30/03/2020: Hungary's PM wins emergency powers to fight coronavirus
Euronews, 31/03/2020: 'Absolutely unacceptable': MEP says Hungary's COVID-19 law means democracy has been suspended
Politico, 31/03/2020: Von der Leyen warns on emergency coronavirus measures after Orbán move
Deutsche Welle, 31/03/2020: EU warns Hungary over coronavirus power grab
Reuters, 31/03/2020: EU warns Hungary not to flout democracy with coronavirus laws
Hungary Today, 01/04/2020: Coronavirus – DK: Orbán Only Concerned with Boosting His Powers
EUObserver, 01/04/2020: Von der Leyen criticises Hungary, but fails to mention it
Politico, 01/04/2020: Tusk warns of state power grabs after Orbán move
BBC News, 02/04/2020: ‘Deep concern’ over coronavirus emergency powers
The Guardian, 03/04/2020: Hungarian journalists fear coronavirus law may be used to jail them
Deutsche Welle, 07/04/2020: Hungary: Law to fight coronavirus creates 'uncertainty' for journalists
EurActiv, 08/04/2020: Austria says it still prefers dialogue with Hungary
Reuters, 09/04/2020: Hungary prolongs coronavirus lockdown indefinitely as infections near 1,000
EurActiv, 10/04/2020: Hungary’s ‘real test’ yet to come, PM says, as coronavirus cases jump
Deutsche Welle, 12/04/2020: EU's von der Leyen threatens Hungary's Orban with legal action
Euronews, 20/04/2020: Coronavirus: Hungary minister says criticism of Viktor Orban's new powers are 'simply fake'
BBC News, 22/04/2020: Hungary's Zoltan Kovacs defends rule by decree
The Guardian, 13/05/2020: Hungary's coronavirus laws prompt new showdown with Brussels
Hungary Today, 13/05/2020: Coronavirus: Fidesz MEP Slams ‘Pathetic’ EP Attacks on Hungary Epidemic Bill
Deutsche Welle, 14/05/2020: 'Hungary is no longer a democracy,' says Hungarian legal scholar
RFE/RL, 14/05/2020: EU Voices 'Particular Concerns' Over Hungary's Coronavirus Laws
Hungary Today, 14/05/2020: EP Holds Debate on Rule of Law in Hungary without Representative from Hungarian Gov’t
EurActiv, 14/05/2020: Jourová: Commission looking at Hungary’s emergency changes to labour code and GDPR
Euronews, 14/05/2020: Hungary: 'Critics silenced' in social media arrests as EU debates Orban's powers
EurActiv, 14/05/2020: Hungarian detentions evidence of government intimidation, say critics
Politico, 14/05/2020: Orbán critics fall foul of Hungary’s controversial corona law
EUObserver, 15/05/2020: Jourova: Ease emergency powers - especially Hungary

European Commission Press Release, 31/03/2020: Statement by President von der Leyen on emergency measures in Member States
European Parliament: Statement by David SASSOLI, EP President, on the situation in Hungary in the context of the COVID-19 outbreak (1 April 2020)
European Parliament: Press Release, 14/05/2020: Hungary’s emergency measures: MEPs ask EU to impose sanctions and stop payments

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