Europe in the time of the coronavirus is less and less like the founding project born after the Second World War and the victory over Nazism. In the heart of the old continent, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban takes his country a decisive step towards dictatorship. Parliament in Budapest, dominated by its Fidesz party on Monday, granted full powers, for an “unlimited period”, to the head of government, before suspending its work in the process, thereby reducing the opposition to silence.
No need to bother with an elected Parliament since Orban, at the head since 2010 of a regime defining itself as an “illiberal democracy”, can now govern, without limitation of time, by decrees replacing the laws. A retraction of democracy operated in the name of the fight against the coronavirus: “We must do everything in our power to stop the spread of the virus”, justifies the Minister of Justice.
In addition to the exceptional measures – such as confinement, quarantine, movement restrictions, etc. – which most other countries experience temporarily (Editor’s note: the state of health emergency is limited to 2 months in France, 2 years in the United Kingdom but submitted to Parliament after 6 months), Viktor Orban can act as he pleases in any field. And limit freedom of the press a little more, the “propagation of lies or distorted truths” being punishable by 5 years in prison.
“No time to discuss legal issues”
The fact that all of this contravenes the values of the European Union does not hinder the Budapest autocrat. “I have clearly told European whiny people that I do not have time to discuss doubtless fascinating but theoretical legal questions, while there are lives to save,” he warned on March 27. .
Hungary, a follower of civil liberties, the independence of the judiciary, and accused of embezzlement of European Community funds, was already the subject of EU sanctions proceedings, under Article 7 of the Treaty of the Union… which has no chance of succeeding since it must be voted unanimously by 27. However, Hungary can count on the unwavering support of Poland, no more looking at democracy and human rights, as well as other countries of the former Eastern bloc.
Asked about this additional turn of the screw, the deputy LREM Pieyre-Alexandre Anglade, specialist in European affairs, denounces “a very serious sprain to the values of Europe: the European Commission should condemn it firmly and remind Viktor Orban very clearly of the conditions of EU membership. Respect for democracy is not a la carte ”. For its part, the President of the Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, confined herself to recalling on Tuesday that these measures “must not last forever”. In short, in the midst of a pandemic, the emergency is elsewhere.