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Newly declared ‘state of danger’ in Hungary should not weaken political dialogue and parliamentary oversight, say PACE co-rapporteurs

Ending a fact-finding visit to Budapest on 14-15 June 2022 to assess the honouring of membership obligations to the Council of Europe by Hungary, George Papandreou (Greece, SOC) and Eerik-Niiles Kross (Estonia, ALDE), co-rapporteurs of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), said that checks and balances and parliamentary oversight are key in times of crisis.

“The people of Hungary have handled the mass arrival of refugees from Ukraine in a spirit of great solidarity. To deal with the consequences of the war, parliament amended the Constitution on 24 May 2022 to enable the government to declare a state of danger “in the event of an armed conflict, war situation or humanitarian catastrophe in a neighbouring country” and authorised the government to rule by decree. This decision has raised questions and concerns as to the functioning of the country’s democratic institutions, given that the ruling coalition enjoys a two-thirds majority in parliament after the April 2022 general elections.

In times of crisis parliamentary oversight, political deliberations involving all political forces in parliament - including on budgetary issues - and proper checks and balances are key. It is therefore paramount that the use of such a special legal order be limited to measures strictly linked to the consequences of the war and does not weaken political dialogue and parliamentary control.

Meetings with the Presidents of the Kuria (Supreme Court), the National Office of the Judiciary and the National Judicial Council helped the Rapporteurs to better understand the specificities of the Hungarian judicial order, which has been the subject of many recommendations by the Venice Commission. Other long-lasting issues of concern discussed during this visit included the situation of the media, the electoral environment, the concentration of powers, access to public information and surveillance issues. These findings will be included in the report we intend to submit to the Monitoring Committee in September 2022.”