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3 Apr, 2020 17:45

German FM threatens Hungary with 'financial consequences’ after PM Orban gains emergency powers to fight coronavirus

German FM threatens Hungary with 'financial consequences’ after PM Orban gains emergency powers to fight coronavirus

Germany’s foreign minister has said that Hungary’s PM Viktor Orban may literally pay for what his opponents called “a power grab.” Orban, well used to criticism from Brussels, has brushed off the anger.

Viktor Orban secured the power to rule by decree on Monday in a bid to stem the outbreak of the deadly Covid-19 pandemic. The Hungarian leader – whose party holds a two-thirds majority in parliament – was cleared to rule without constraint until parliament withdraws his right to do so. 

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Branding the move “unacceptable,” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas took a jab at Orban, saying his powers may come with a heavy cost.

“It should also have financial implications,” Maas told reporters on Friday, adding that “this is the only way we can ensure that fundamental rights are upheld.” 

While several other European countries have restricted civil liberties in the name of combatting the virus, Hungary is the only nation thus far to grant its leader an open-ended remit to rule by decree. France has enacted an unprecedented restriction of movement, while Britain has granted healthcare workers new powers to detain “potentially infectious persons” indefinitely.

Orban’s measures triggered a stern response from Brussels, though. 13 political parties in the European People’s Party have called for his Fidesz party to be expelled from the bloc, and urged the European Commission to “address the situation in Hungary forcefully.” Meanwhile, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has said that the Hungarian populist went “too far” with his coronavirus powers.

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Orban is well used to criticism. Fidesz has already been suspended from the EPP for its anti-immigration policies and for Orban’s verbal attacks on the institutions of the EU. In addition, the Hungarian leader has been castigated by the liberal press and left-wing think-tanks for years, mostly due to his uncompromising stance on migration and vocal opposition to liberal financier George Soros.

“With all due respect I have no time for this,” he fumed in a letter to EPP Secretary General  Antonio Lopez-Isturiz White sent on Friday.

"I can hardly imagine any of us having time for fantasies about the intentions of other countries. This seems to me to be a costly luxury these days," he wrote.

“I am ready to discuss this once the pandemic is over," he added.

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