MEPs, civil society groups call for ‘swift actions’ on Hungary

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A group of MEPs, journalists, academics and civil society organisations has called on the European Commission and the Council to condemn the Hungarian government’s ‘‘misuse of the coronavirus crisis to erode democratic values.’’

In an open letter, initiated by the anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International EU, 80 signatories warned that the COVID-19 crisis must not serve as a smokescreen for anti-democratic activities, as this could lead to the aggravation of corruption and undermine ‘‘peace, justice and accountable and inclusive institutions.’’

‘‘Exceptional times, of course, demand exceptional measures and it may be legitimate for governments to temporarily use extraordinary powers to manage the situation,’’ the letter said.

‘‘Nevertheless, even in a crisis, these measures must be time-limited and proportionate. We cannot allow unscrupulous political actors to use the current climate as a pretext for dismantling democracy and undermining the rule of law,’’ it added.

The letter pointed to the measures adopted on March 30 by the Hungarian parliament granting Prime Minister Viktor Orbán sweeping powers to rule by decree.

‘‘The recent actions of Viktor Orbán’s government in Hungary are a flagrant attack on the cornerstones of the rule of law and the values of the Union,’’ it stated.

The signatories urged European leaders to ‘‘more strictly control the spending of EU funds and to enhance current measures that prevent the creation of an illiberal system within our Union.’’

‘‘The European Commission and the Council must also take swift and decisive actions to address these threats to the rule of law being carried out under the guise of emergency powers’’ the letter concluded.

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