When the EU, in its formative years, was merely the EEC, and consisted of only six countries - France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Italy and the then West Germany, it bordered a whole host of totalitarian states. To the east lay Soviet satellite countries, significantly the remaining, Eastern, part of Germany. To the south could be found the dictatorships in Greece, Spain and Portugal.
So why Hungary has managed to maintain its member state status has been a test of the remaining EU states, and a problem that they have so far been unable to tackle. That inability has now been exploited by Viktor Orbán, taking advantage of the Coronavirus pandemic to become the EU’s very own Great Dictator.
The leader of the nationalist Fidesz party had already signalled his intention: as the Guardian has reported, “Viktor Orbán … has taken the political maxim ‘never let a crisis go to waste’ and run with it … This week he will almost certainly acquire dictatorial powers. The Hungarian parliament, dominated by his Fidesz party, is expected to rubber-stamp the ‘protecting against the coronavirus’ law, ushering in an indefinite period of what amounts to one-man rule in an EU member state”. A sort of enabling law, perhaps.
There is more. “The new law allows Mr Orbán to rule by decree, alone and unchallenged. The prime minister will be able to override all existing legislation. Elections will not take place. Information on government actions will be provided to the speaker of the Hungarian parliament and the leaders of parliamentary groups. The spreading of ‘false’ information … will become a crime punishable by a lengthy prison sentence”. Decided by whom?
And so it has proved, as NPR has reported today. “The nationalist government in Hungary passed a law Monday granting sweeping emergency powers that Prime Minister Viktor Orban says are necessary to fight the coronavirus pandemic. Those powers include sidelining parliament and giving Orban the power to rule by decree indefinitely”.
Orbán’s excuse? “This law gives the government the power and means to defend Hungary”, wrapping himself up in the flag, while promising “When this emergency ends, we will give back all powers, without exception”. Like he didn’t with asylum seekers.
Viktor Orbán may be more Chaplin than Hitler. But if the values of the EU are to mean anything, the Union cannot permit a dictatorship within its club. So expel the SOB.
[The Legalballs Fund has now closed]