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The novel coronavirus outbreak poses a unique challenge to the European Union, where traditional solutions “have been proven to be inadequate”, Justice Minister Judit Varga told MTI in reaction to a statement signed by 13 EU member states on Hungarian measures adopted against the epidemic. Varga said that Hungary, at the same time, “agrees fully” with the statement’s call to “uphold the fundamental values of freedom, democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights.”
Thirteen European Union countries expressed concern over Hungary’s new law which enhances government powers to tackle the novel coronavirus epidemic. “In this unprecedented situation, it is legitimate that Member States adopt extraordinary measures to protect their citizens and overcome the crisis,” the governments of Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and Sweden said in the statement published on the websites of their respective foreign ministries. The countries added, however, that they were “deeply concerned about the risk of violations of the principles of rule of law, democracy and fundamental rights arising from the adoption of certain emergency measures”. They said Hungary should limit emergency measures to “what is strictly necessary”, proportionate and temporary. In addition, they called for measures to be subject to regular scrutiny and to abide by the principles of the rule of law, democracy and fundamental rights as well as international legal obligations. The emergency measures must not restrict the freedom of expression or the media, the statement added. Member states must work together to overcome the coronavirus crisis and uphold European principles and values, they said. “We therefore support the European Commission initiative to monitor the emergency measures and their application to ensure the fundamental values of the Union are upheld, and invite the General Affairs Council to take up the matter when appropriate,” the statement said.
Varga expressed regret that the “statement was not open for all member states to join.” Hungary, she added, has always promoted a “comprehensive evaluation of the EU’s basic principles, based on objective criteria and the principle of equal rights.” “Such an evaluation can include various states’ emergency measures during the crisis, once the hardest days are behind us,” she said, calling on member states to refrain from using the epidemic to “sow discord”.