Hungary: Extraordinary Coronavirus Measures are Used Everywhere, But Only We Are Singled Out For Criticism

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban (C) walks near other representatives during a vote about the government's bill on the protection against the new coronavirus COVID-19 at the plenary session of the Hungarian Parliament in Budapest, Hungary on March 30, 2020. (Photo by Zoltan MATHE / POOL / AFP) (Photo by …
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In the present situation, we can confidently say the paramount concern of European citizens – with the possible exception of a handful of liberal journalists – is the right to remain alive, and the state guarantees and measures related to this right.

It is self-evident the introduction of a state of emergency in conformity with a country’s constitutional order – be that nation Italy, France, Spain, Belgium, Hungary or any other European Union Member State – involves some restrictions on rights and freedoms for a large number of citizens. In France, they have even postponed the second round of local government elections in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.

Are restrictions of this kind justified, legitimate and well-founded for the public interest? Every European citizen can answer this question very easily by using their common sense.

Let us cast our minds back to an important event in recent history. After the 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris, French President François Hollande declared a state of emergency and – fully in line with the rule of law – the Minister of Interior was given legal authorization to “place under house arrest anyone whose actions prove dangerous for security and public order” and even to use electronic tags to monitor those individuals.

At the same time, the prefects in all departments received legal authorization to: “restrict freedom of movement by imposing special defence and security zones, and by prohibiting movement in certain places [imposing a curfew]”; “to prohibit any person suspected of creating a disturbance of public order from residing in certain parts of French territory”; “to requisition persons and private assets for official purposes”; “to temporarily prohibit certain public meetings and close certain meeting places”; “to authorise administrative searches of premises in the presence of a criminal investigation police officer”.

This state of emergency in France was in force for two years, without being subjected to vociferous criticism from the liberal media and NGOs. It was merely accepted as a fact of life.

The measures adopted by the Hungarian government today — in a very different context, it is true, but for equally legitimate purposes, and with full respect for the Constitution — do not exceed the scope of the emergency measures adopted in France in 2015. Nor do they exceed the current emergency measures adopted by France and several other EU Member States in recent weeks in response to the coronavirus crisis.

But it is absolutely clear that while such measures are considered completely legitimate and justified in Western countries like France, Spain or Italy, the liberal media is unwilling to accept their enactment in member states like Hungary which joined the EU between 2004 and 2007.

The allegations claim that temporary restrictions on citizens’ activities which are vitally important in order to protect lives are contrary to the rule of law, offer unlimited or indefinite power to the Orbán government, suppress fundamental rights such as freedom of speech and freedom of assembly, and even pave the road to “dictatorship“.

This raises an important question related to the right to equal treatment – with regard to both EU Member States and EU citizens.

Would the liberal journalists and NGOs who attack Hungary please explain why they are so persistent in their desire to introduce double standards into all aspects of legal practice in the EU? In their view, is the introduction of a state of emergency completely legal and acceptable in some Member States, but completely illegal and unacceptable in some others? Why should this be the case, and on what grounds do they think so? How is this obvious double standard compatible with the rule of law? Is this not instead a mockery of the rule of law?

Who is really working on the destruction of European values, including the protection of lives and equality of treatment? Governments all over Europe rapidly enacting measures to halt the spread of the coronavirus disease and introducing states of emergency? Or liberal journalists and NGOs who staunchly oppose those states of emergency and rapid action, and at the same time seek to create as much confusion as they can through the use of double standards?

We will leave it to the reader to provide the answer.

Tamás Deutsch is a Member of the European Parliament, a founding member of Fidesz, and the Head of the Hungarian EPP Delegation in the European Parliament

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