Tuesday

9th Aug 2022

Letter

Right of Reply: Hungarian government

  • The Hungarian parliament in Budapest (Photo: Wikimedia)
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Dear Editor,

While authors Emese Pásztor and Sanjay Sethi in EUobserver take a rather biased stance on Hungary's state of danger due to the Covid pandemic and now the war in Ukraine, in their attempt to paint prime minister Viktor Orbán and his government as the black, authoritarian sheep of Europe, they ultimately miss the point of our special legal order.

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No, it is not to "presumptively authorise the government to supersede parliament and issue laws by decree that restrict civil and political rights." Nor is it to promote the "openly anti-democratic aims of Hungary's dominant right-wing political party."

Instead, the special legal order serves to save the lives of Hungarians and ensure their security and protection.

Passed yesterday in parliament, the amendment to Hungary's Fundamental Law—which enables the Hungarian government to enact a state of danger due to armed conflict, war or humanitarian disaster in a neighbouring country—was bound to trigger some frenzy in the liberal bubble.

Remember the spring of 2020, when Hungary introduced the state of danger due to the coronavirus pandemic? It was the same drill two years ago as it is now.

Back then, left-liberal, mainstream media outlets sounded the alarm over an "erosion of [Hungarian] democracy," (The Independent) and claimed that PM Orbán would supposedly "rule by decree, alone and unchallenged" (The Guardian). Some even drew allusions to Hitler (former Finnish ambassador and others) and claimed that Orbán had suspended the Hungarian parliament.

But did the "state of danger" really push Hungary into "authoritarian disarray"? No, it did not. Instead, it enabled the government to take swift action, closing borders, enacting movement restrictions, and equipping our healthcare system with everything it needed to treat all those who required care.

Once Hungary weathered the worst parts of the pandemic and the economic rebuilding took off, the swiftness granted by the special legal order contributed immensely to Hungary rising from the quarantine stronger than we entered it.

With the war in Ukraine, and the "state of danger" adopted yesterday, it's really all the same. Now our critics are hyperventilating about how we are going to use it to "shroud Fidesz's authoritarian actions under the cloak of legality." But in reality, it is meant to provide the tools for the government to safeguard Hungary's national security interests, protect Hungarian families, and avoid getting dragged into the war.

And, by the way, parliament still has to approve the steps taken by the government.

Author bio

Zoltán Kovács is international spokesperson of the Hungarian government and secretary of state for international communication.

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

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