Dear Mr. President, Dear Madam Vice-President,
Dear State Secretary, Dear Members of the European Parliament,
The European Union is facing the greatest crisis in its history. The coronavirus pandemic poses a direct threat to the lives and health of our citizens. The shock to the European economy must be addressed, and the means and resources must be provided to get Europe back on its feet again. We need to plan now how we can maintain and strengthen our competitiveness in the long run. The methods and solutions used in the past have manifestly failed. All European countries have been compelled to introduce emergency measures.
The Hungarian Government has taken swift and effective action. Thanks to the sacrifice and discipline of the Hungarian people, we have managed so far to prevent the pandemic from reaching tragic proportions similar to other Member States. The Hungarian Government will create as many new jobs as the virus destroys. Our citizens know that no Hungarian is left behind. In this situation, EU citizens, Hungarians and non-Hungarians alike, expect that the European Union support the Member States with all the means at its disposal in the fight to save their lives, health, jobs, well-being – in short, their future. The European Parliament has not been able to meet this expectation. Today, the European Parliament is not the solution, but part of the problem.
It’s not easy for me to say these words. I spent nearly ten years in this institution. I know its corridors, I know its procedures, I personally know many MEPs and the staff. Above all, however, I am aware of the European Parliament's original mission: to be a place of democratic debate where we can shape the future of our continent together, respecting European values and the diversity and identity of European nations. According to István Bibó, a great Hungarian political thinker, “being a democrat means, above all, not being afraid: not being afraid of the opinion of others…” Can an institution be called democratic, where it is not evident to listen to the other party?
The European Union was created with the aim of deepening solidarity between the peoples of Europe. Can an institution call itself European that attacks one of the Member States during the most difficult period in the fight against the epidemic, questions its measures and undermines the legitimacy of its decisions? This would not qualify as a standard procedure even among enemies, and it is a historic betrayal within the European family.
The fundamental values of the European Union, including the rule of law, are our common values, which are self-evident to us. Can an institution call itself the guardian of the rule of law if it has made the rule of law a political tool, an instrument of exclusion and division?
Nearly two years ago, during the vote on the Sargentini-report, not only your own Rules of Procedure, but also the EU Treaties were violated here in the European Parliament. Today, not even the right to a fair trial is guaranteed to a Member State of the European Union. Even during the worst historical times in conceptual lawsuits, care was taken to ensure at least that the person accused was present at the trial.
Dear Mr. President,
In the current unprecedented situation, Member States have the right to take exceptional measures to protect their citizens and eradicate the crisis. Exceptional measures should be temporary, necessary and proportionate and should be regularly reviewed. The emergency measures introduced in Hungary fully comply with these principles.
On March 11 2020, the Hungarian Government declared a state of danger in order to protect the health and life 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. Pursuant to the Fundamental Law, the Government's emergency legislation shall remain 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 authorisation is 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. The extraordinary measures of the Government will cease to be in force when the state of danger ends.
A few weeks ago, here in the European Parliament, you falsely accused the Hungarian Government of suspending the sittings of the National Assembly. A few days later, you began to criticize the decisions of the National Assembly, which obviously must have been in session!
Unlike the European Parliament, the Hungarian National Assembly is alive and well! It is in regular session and exercises its powers of scrutiny without any hindrance. It does not need unsolicited international support to protect its powers. In a letter, the President of the National Assembly informed the President of the European Parliament accordingly. The Constitutional Court and the ordinary courts are operational and the performance of their functions is facilitated by procedural rules appropriate to the situation. Constitutional and legal review of the activities of state bodies is guaranteed.
The extraordinary measures introduced in Hungary are not unique in a European comparison – with the exception of being the only ones to grant additional prerogatives to the parliament compared to the constitutional framework. To support this claim we have prepared a thorough international comparative analysis, which we have previously submitted to the European Commission and which is accessible on the Hungarian Government's website in English and Hungarian. Once again, I would like to thank the Member States for their comments and remarks, which have made it possible for the comparison to give a complete and accurate picture of the practice in Europe. I respectfully call on the European Commission to make their comparative analysis public, which has been promised so many times, so that we can share our knowledge in a fair constitutional dialogue.
Dear Mr. President,
Exceptional measures taken by Member States must not call into question the exercise of fundamental rights. That is why Hungary has decided not to suspend the application of any article of the European Convention on Human Rights, unlike several other Member States. This applies also to provisions guaranteeing freedom of expression.
The extraordinary measures of the Hungarian Government do not restrict the activities of the media and do not affect the freedom of expression. Objective, responsible information is a prerequisite for effective control of the pandemic. The possibility of evaluating or criticizing government activity according to one’s temperament is self-evident under all circumstances in a democratic rule of law country, including Hungary.
At the same time, in agreement with the European Commission, the Hungarian Government also deems it important to take effective action against disinformation - especially in exceptional circumstances such as the epidemic situation. No one can seriously argue that freedom of expression includes the deliberate spread of lies, especially when it jeopardizes effective defence against the pandemic.
Dear Mr. President,
Hungary has been facing an unprecedented, coordinated political campaign and hysteria for months. One needs a magnifying glass to find a sober voice, objective evaluation, or unbiased opinion. Under these circumstances, it takes political courage for someone to confirm that Hungary has not violated EU law by passing the Act on the containment of coronavirus. I take this opportunity to once again pay tribute to Vice-President Vĕra Jourová for doing so on several occasions.
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.
Everything we say or do today will be judged by future generations on the basis of whether it has hindered or helped to prevent the epidemic and to get Europe back on its feet.
I trust that the European Parliament, instead of its current displacement activity, will also find a way to play an adequate role in this mission.
Thank you for your kind attention.