Advocacy update

New Legal Opinion Calls on EU to Act on Hungary’s Emergency COVID-19 Laws

June 08, 2020
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Today, the Open Society Justice Initiative and Blackstone Chambers released a legal opinion on Hungary’s Authorization Act and associated decrees, calling on the European Union to hold Hungary accountable for violations of EU law. The Act includes a set of emergency coronavirus measures that criminalize the spread of misinformation, and allow the government to rule by decree.

Since March, the European Commission has failed to act on Hungary’s new measures, despite clear breaches of EU law. The legal opinion finds that the Authorization Act is inconsistent with the values of the EU, identified in Article 2 of the Treaty of the European Union. In addition, it argues that the criminalization provision as well as subsequent decrees violate a number of EU directives including the Citizen’s Rights Directive, Audiovisual Directive and General Data Protection Directive and rights under the Charter of Fundamental Rights.

On March 11, 2020, Hungary declared a national “state of danger,” a special state of emergency regulated by the Hungarian constitution. On March 30, 2020, the Hungarian Parliament adopted the Authorization Act and has subsequently adopted over 100 decrees, many of which cover issues well beyond those necessary to address the COVID-19 pandemic.

On May 26, the government advanced two bills in Parliament: a Bill on Terminating the State of Danger and a Bill on Transitional Provisions related to the Termination of the State of Danger. The first gives the government power to determine when to end the “state of danger.” The Bill on Transitional Provisions foresees a new state of medical emergency with numerous transitional measures, that likely replicate and add further violations of EU law. The bills have not yet been adopted.

“Hungary’s Authorization Act is not limited to protecting public health during COVID-19. To the contrary, it is an attempt to whitewash abuse of power. The European Commission must take urgent action to hold the Hungarian government accountable for emergency measures that breach European Union law,” said James A. Goldston, executive director of Open Society Justice Initiative.

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