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13 EU nations ‘deeply concerned’ after Hungary power grab

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Agence France-Presse

Several EU member states including powerful Germany and France warned Wednesday that coronavirus emergency measures taken by bloc countries should not violate fundamental rights, after Hungary’s leader Viktor Orban took on sweeping powers.

While not specifically naming Orban or Hungary, thirteen members of the 27-country European Union clearly targeted the premier’s move to assume strongman powers that critics called dictatorial.

“In this unprecedented situation, it is legitimate that member states adopt extraordinary measures to protect their citizens and overcome the crisis,” a statement said.

“We are however deeply concerned about the risk of violations of the principles of rule of law, democracy and fundamental rights arising from the adoption of certain emergency measures.

The statement was also signed by Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and Sweden.

No eastern European country however backed the document.

The countries insisted that any emergency measures linked to the coronavirus crisis “should be limited to what is strictly necessary” as well as “temporary in nature”.

“We need to jointly overcome this crisis and to jointly uphold our European principles and values on this path,” they said.

The governments said they backed pledges by the European commission, the EU’s executive arm, to monitor the situation and said they would discuss the matter at a subsequent ministerial meeting.

Critics at home and abroad have condemned Hungary’s “anti-coronavirus defence law”, saying it gives Orban unnecessary and unlimited power and is a means of cementing his position rather than battling the virus.

After declaring a state of emergency on March 11, the new law passed on Monday gives Orban the power to indefinitely rule by decree until his government decides the emergency is over.

It removes the current requirement for MPs to approve any extensions to decrees. Elections cannot be held during the emergency period.

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