The extraordinary measures implemented in Hungary in the fight against the coronavirus epidemic are compatible with fundamental principles, the Justice Minister stated in a message she sent to Members of the European Parliament on Thursday which she also posted on her Facebook account.

According to Judit Varga’s post, she wrote the message because the European Parliament banned the speech she intended to deliver in Hungary’s defence in the debate about the Hungarian legislation.

In her message, the Minister said the European Union is facing the greatest crisis in its history. EU citizens expect the European Union to support Member States with all the means at its disposal in the fight to save lives, health, jobs and well-being. The European Parliament has not been able to meet this expectation, and today it is “not the solution, but part of the problem,” she stated.

She wrote that all European countries have the right to take exceptional measures to protect their citizens and eradicate the crisis. The Hungarian Government has taken swift and effective action, and thanks to the sacrifice and discipline of the Hungarian people, they have managed so far to prevent the pandemic from reaching tragic proportions similar to other Member States.

On 11 March 2020, the Hungarian Government declared a state of danger in order to protect the health and lives of its citizens and to stabilise the national economy. The state of danger is an extraordinary legal order regulated in the Fundamental Law of Hungary which remains in force for fifteen days unless the Government, on the basis of the authorisation of the National Assembly, extends its validity. The National Assembly granted this authorisation by passing the Act on the containment of coronavirus, the Minister recalled.

She drew attention to the fact that the authorisation was not unlimited either in time or in content: The Government may exercise its extraordinary powers to the extent necessary and proportionate to the aim pursued in order to prevent, control and eliminate the epidemic and its harmful effects. The National Assembly may revoke the authorisation at any time, even before the end of the state of danger, while the extraordinary measures of the Government will cease to be in force when the state of danger ends.

The Hungarian National Assembly is in session and exercises its powers of scrutiny without any hindrance. Ordinary courts and the Constitutional Court are operational, and the constitutional and legal review of the activities of state bodies is guaranteed, she highlighted.

She added that the extraordinary measures introduced in Hungary were not unique in a European comparison. To support this claim, a thorough international comparative analysis has been prepared which is accessible on the Government’s website. Ms. Varga is asking the European Commission to make their comparative analysis public.

According to her message, exceptional measures taken by Member States must not call into question the exercise of fundamental rights; this is why Hungary has decided not to suspend the application of any article of the European Convention on Human Rights. The Government’s extraordinary measures do not restrict the activities of the media and do not affect the freedom of expression.

Objective information is, however, a prerequisite for effective control of the pandemic, and in agreement with the European Commission, the Hungarian Government also deems it important to take effective action against disinformation, she stressed, observing that freedom of expression does not include the deliberate spreading of lies.

The Justice Minister asked the question: Can an institution be called democratic where listening to the other party is not evident; which during the most difficult period in the fight against the epidemic “attacks one of the Member States, questions its measures and undermines the legitimacy of its decisions?” In her view, this would not qualify as a standard procedure even among enemies, while “it is a historic betrayal within the European family”.

She added that nearly two years ago, during the vote on the Sargentini report, the European Parliament violated its own Rules of Procedure as well as the EU Treaties. Today, not even the right to a fair trial is guaranteed to a Member State of the European Union, she wrote.

Ms. Varga paid tribute to Vice-President of the European Commission Vera Jourová for having the courage to confirm on several occasions – amidst “an unprecedented, coordinated political campaign and hysteria” ongoing for months – that Hungary has not violated EU law by passing the Act on the containment of coronavirus.

The Hungarian Government will continue to do its utmost to protect the lives, health and well-being of its citizens and to assist others in their defence efforts within and outside the borders of the European Union. The Minister trusts that the European Parliament, instead of its current displacement activity, will also find a way to play an adequate role in this mission, the message reads.

(Ministry of Justice/MTI)