Coronavirus: Emergency legislation planned by EU member states
Thursday, 26 March 2020
Parliament building in Budapest, Credit: Unsplash/ Jason Blackeye
Several member states plan to introduce emergency measures to tackle the coronavirus crisis. At the video press briefing in Brussels, a spokesperson of the Commission described some of the measures as far-reaching but declined to comment on them.
The college of the Commission discussed the measures yesterday (25 March). According to a read-out from the meeting, such measures are allowed but should be strictly proportional and limited in time.
The Brussels Times asked the Commission which countries are concerned but did not receive a reply at the time of writing this article. It is known that Hungary, the only member state not classified as free by Freedom House, is planning emergency legislation.
Opposition parties and civil society groups in Hungary have condemned a proposed emergency bill on protection against the coronavirus. The bill would allow the government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban to rule by decree for an indefinite amount of time.
The Hungarian justice minister has reportedly submitted a legislative proposal to parliament that would, if passed, extend the current state of emergency indefinitely and impose prison sentences of up to five years for spreading falsehoods about the coronavirus.
Such measures would be inconsistent with the Commission’s position and pose a threat to democracy in Hungary. The EU would expect the country’s supreme court, if still independent of the government, to ban such legislation. In times of crisis, freedom of expression is more important than ever.
Silencing open discussion and critical voices is dangerous in any crisis situation and especially in the coronavirus crisis. So is also if a government – which expects that the population shall comply with lockdown measures – does not comply with the rulings of a supreme court.