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Mar 31, 2020 - Zoltán Kovács

Coronavirus Protection Act: The importance of saving Hungarian lives is clearly not a priority outside of Hungary

Some 90 percent of Hungarians, however, know perfectly what's at stake.

The New York Times noted yesterday that “leaders around the world have passed emergency decrees and legislation expanding their reach during the pandemic.” Then the author ponders, “Will they ever relinquish them?”

In the case of Hungary, there’s a simple answer. Yes, we will.

We’re at war against the coronavirus to save lives, which depends on the ability to make quick decisions. The Hungarian government is not looking to make decisions it has no right to make; it simply wants certain decisions – pertinent to its coronavirus defense – to be made quickly. The Parliament can lift the state of emergency at any time; or, when the pandemic is finally over, these extraordinary measures will come to an end as well, as they no longer will be needed to protect the population.

It is as simple as that, but it seems this is not so easy for some to understand. The list of the clever but not-so-helpful observers who piled on to condemn Hungary is lengthy:

Socialist, I mean Democratic Socialist, Senator Bernie Sanders stressed that “authoritarian leaders have used moments of crisis to seize unchecked power. Hungary’s Orban is the latest example.” Senator Jim Risch pretended to be deeply troubled: “I am very concerned by today’s news that Hungary will be indefinitely ruled by executive fiat.” Congressman Engel of New York -- New York! Ground zero of the pandemic in the US -- accused PM Orbán of a “blatant power grab” that “marginalizes the Hungarian Parliament” (how?). Meanwhile, Representative Adam Schiff seemed truly sad: “This is how democracies die.”

The House Foreign Affairs Committee, which is chaired by Engel (did I mention he’s from the state of NY?) and cheered on by liberal Hungarian MEP Katalin Cseh, writes bizarrely: “I call on Prime Minister Orban to abandon this effort and focus on counter-COVID measures that actually prioritize keeping the Hungarian people safe.”

Some journalist by the name of Fred Kaplan boldly asserted that “It is time to kick Hungary out of the European Union and NATO.” Dutch Green MEP Judith Sargentini fretted again about the rule of law and asked EU Member State: “when will you finally take action?”

How many of the above do you suppose actually read the law or any factual detail about what it does? How many of the above know that PM Orbán’s ruling alliance has a two-thirds majority in the democratically elected parliament since 2018.

Or, how many are aware of the following?

Some 90 percent of Hungarians – who are actually living in the country – support the measure and find it necessary, according to recent polls. On the question of how long, nearly 60 percent say that the state of danger and the extraordinary measures should be extended until the end of the pandemic.

So what are we talking about then?

The one thing that all of these people have in common is that none of them appears to have taken the time to read the actual bill and understand what it actually says. That, or their political agenda simply compels them to ignore the facts.

Hungary’s Coronavirus Bill does not cede power to the government indefinitely. Nor does it dissolve Parliament. It focuses explicitly on extraordinary measures to prevent, treat, eradicate and remedy harmful effects of the current human epidemic that we are facing. The state of danger must come to end when the pandemic does. In the meantime, the government must still answer to Parliament.

None of the parties so duly concerned -- and so conspicuously -- about Hungary bear the burden of executive responsibility of having to fight the coronavirus here on the ground in Hungary – to protect the population, flatten the curve and save lives. So, as usual, I, along with scores of Hungarians, are left perplexed by such coverage and attacks – and, frankly, by the utter lack of concern for Hungarian lives. We’re fighting an unknown enemy, a deadly disease, and we’ll do everything in our power to defeat it as quickly as possible… Period.