"I have no time for this!," Orbán tells EPP Secretary General

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“With all due respect, I have no time for this,” Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orbán wrote to Antonio López-Istúriz White, Secretary General of the European People’s Party (EPP) in response to a letter by 13 chairs of EPP member parties to Donald Tusk, the leader of the centre-right political grouping, asking him for the expulsion of Fidesz from the EPP family.
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Crisis should not be an excuse to overreach, says Tusk

Governments using the coronavirus crisis to stage an executive power grab would be "politically dangerous, and morally unacceptable," said EPP President Donald Tusk in a thinly-veiled attack on Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.

In a letter to European People's Party staff, the former European Council president said the crisis should not be used as an excuse for state overreach.

"The state of emergency, or the state of danger, must serve the governments in their fight against the virus, and not strengthen their power over the citizens," Tusk wrote in the letter, seen by Politico

Making use of the pandemic to build a permanent state of emergency is politically dangerous, and morally unacceptable.

The Coronavirus Act gives Orbán’s government the power to rule by decree indefinitely, it also cancels future elections, and imposes harsh restrictions on media freedoms.

It is a false accusation that the Coronavirus Act eliminated Parliament, "it is working at full steam", Orbán told public radio MR1 on Friday morning. 

Hungary has enemies that are after the country, they want to plunder it, and George Soros is at the helm of this network

, said Orbán, adding that this should be cast aside for now.

Government spokesman Zoltán Kovács denied in a tweet that the new legislation has built a permanent state of emergency or that it has been introduced for an indefinite period of time. He argues that “it can be lifted any time by Parliament and will end when the pandemic ends.”

Yet, it remains a fact that there is no sunset clause in the law, as Orbán rejected any cut-off date offered by opposition parties that said they would have supported the bill had there been one. It is also a fact that the Fidesz-KDNP ruling coalition has two-thirds majority in Parliament therefore it is entirely up to them when the Coronavirus Act is revoked.

Concerns all over the place

The Open Society Foundations condemned the vote, saying the bill […] is a blatant power grab by a would-be dictator that will rob Hungarian citizens of their democratic rights. If we needed any further evidence that Viktor Orbán has authoritarian tendencies, this is it.

OSF is one of the world’s largest financiers of non-governmental organisations working in Hungary since 1984. Citing “an increasingly repressive political and legal environment" in Hungary, George Soros’s OSF announced in mid-May 2018 moving their Budapest-based international operations and staff to the German capital, Berlin

Rating agency Moody’s warned on Thursday that the new legislation, which also includes prison sentences for those spreading misinformation and who violate quarantine measures, raises concerns about rule of law and will intensify tensions with the European Union.

Civil rights groups, the European Parliament and the Council of Europe have criticized the law, voicing concerns about the potential hollowing out of democracy, freedom of speech and rule of law, accusations which Hungary's justice minister has swiftly rejected along with Orbán himself who said "if you can’t help, the least you can do is not hinder us".

Most recently, the law prompted EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen to call on member states to adhere to European values and respect the freedom of the media when adopting emergency measures to combat the spread of coronavirus.

EPP vs. Orbán

Tusk's letter follows one dated 27 March and seen by Politico from the Hungarian leader to Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, the leader of Germany's Christian Democratic Union party. The CDU is the party of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and influential in the EPP.

In his letter, Orbán accused Tusk of using the EPP as a "playground for his Polish domestic political games." He urged Kramp-Karrenbauer to "persuade President Tusk to stop sowing the seeds of division in our political family and to start focusing on what is needed right now."

The EPP suspended Fidesz last March over concerns about the rule of law in Hungary and Orbán's clashes with EU institutions over migration and other issues. But since then, the EPP has struggled with how to address ideological divisions between its moderate and right-wing factions. In January this year, the EPP decided to prolong the suspension rather than expel Orbán's party.

If Fidesz does not change the direction of its policy, it will remain suspended and consequently has no rights as a party-member; no right to vote in any party meetings; no right to propose candidates for posts; it can no longer be present at any EPP meetings; Orbán will not be invited to EPP consultations before EU summits. It can, however, vote as member of the EPP in the European Parliament. 

Tusk does not have the power to expel Fidesz himself. That decision rests with the EPP's political assembly, which brings together senior leaders of the party and the group in the Parliament. The next political assembly is planned for June.

The leaders of 13 EPP member parties said in their letter that the mandate Orbán gained in Parliament on Monday to rule by decree is

a clear violation of the founding principles of liberal democracy and European values.

They added that the fight against COVID-19 “cannot be used as a pretext to extend the state of emergency indefinitely. We fear that Prime Minister Orbán will use his newly achieved power to further extend the government’s grip on civil society.”

eppletter

Hungary’s Justice Minister Katalin Novák tweeted a letter Orbán wrote in response to EPP Secretary General Antonia López-Istúriz White.

In this letter he says that during efforts made to save lives and protect the health and security of citizens “I can hardly imagine any of us having the time for fantasies about the intentions of other countries. This seems to me a costly luxury these days.

With all due respect, I have no time for this!

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