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EU's von der Leyen threatens Hungary with legal action

April 12, 2020

EU executive head Ursula von der Leyen has warned Hungary of possible legal proceedings if executive powers to tackle coronavirus go to far. Prime Minister Viktor Orban can now pass decrees without parliament's approval.

Belgien Viktor Orban und Ursula von der Leyen
Image: picture-alliance/AA/D. Aydemir

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen threatened Hungary with legal proceedings over new laws to slow the spread of coronavirus, in comments published on Sunday.

The EU was "ready to act if the restrictions go beyond what is allowed," Von der Leyen told German newspaper Bild am Sonntag.

Read more: Coronavirus is a stress test for democracy

Earlier this month the Hungarian parliament handed Prime Minister Viktor Orban's government wide-reaching powers to deal with the coronavirus crisis.

The law does not have an expiration date and allows Orban to govern by decree. It makes it easier for him to sidestep parliamentary approval. The law drew heavy criticism from other EU member states, most of which have also introduced lockdowns or restrictions on public life.

Von der Leyen, who has previously been critical of Orban, said imposing emergency measures to combat the virus was necessary "but the measures have to be proportionate, within a limited time period and democratically controlled."

Orban's authoritarian policies have led to criticism of Hungary's place within the EU, and Orban himself has been critical of the bloc.

Read more: Hungary — Law to fight coronavirus creates 'uncertainty' for journalists

Orban, who has been in power for ten years, struck back against EU critics at the beginning of April when the laws were first passed.

He said he has "no time" for dealing with the criticisms and said some members wanted to "loot" the country.

ed/rc (AP, dpa)

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