Hungarian Justice Minister Judit Varga on Wednesday attended a videoconference of the European Council’s General Affairs Council (GAC), which reviewed national and EU responses to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Vera Jourova, Vice-President of the European Commission, said the body was working on a report concerning each member state’s measures introduced against the epidemic, Varga told MTI after the meeting. They have so far found “no reason to worry” about Hungary, Varga said, noting that the report is yet to be published.
Hungary wants the debate to be based on facts and legal arguments, she said, noting that the country has sent its own assessment of the member states’ actions to the commission. Hungary’s report contains a comparison of all member states’ actions and their constitutional background, she said.
Factual debate is especially important when it comes to arguments about the rule of law, Varga said, rejecting what she called “unfounded accusations from certain members” even before the report was published. Common values should not be used to foment division among member states, she said.
Hungary believes in EU solidarity, both within and outside the bloc’s borders, Varga said, adding that Hungary has sent protective gear to Western Balkan countries, which are hoping to become EU members. “Hungary believes in solidarity, true action, aid and rejects double standards, lecturing and politically motivated mud-slinging.”
Varga noted that the GAC meeting will be followed by an EU summit on Thursday. It is still unclear how EU institutions are planning to handle the long-term economic effects of the crisis, she said. Hungary accepts that the EU needs “desperate measures in desperate times,” but stands by maintaining fundamental EU values like solidarity, equal treatment and the rejection of double standards, Varga said.
The situation warrants a better European response rather than “more Europe”, she said.
Varga noted that the EU’s budget for the 2021-2027 financial cycle was being discussed before the pandemic, but “talks reached a virtual impasse in February”. The pandemic has “opened up a new dimension” in that regard too, Varga said. However, a seven-year financial plan should be discussed based on its long-established principles, she said. Cohesion policy has always been an important part of that foundation, she said.
Hungary is ready to support any solution to the present crisis while taking into consideration the interests of all member states, she said. But cohesion policy must not be compromised, she added.
Kovacs to BBC: Hungary being ‘lynched’
Hungary is being subjected to “political lynching” because its government is “walking its own way, trying to select the most effective way of handling the coronavirus epidemic”, State Secretary Zoltan Kovacs said in an interview to the BBC on Wednesday.
In his interview, Kovacs argued that Hungary’s recent coronavirus law was necessary to facilitate “rapid and firm measures” to fight “an unknown enemy”. Answering a question, he said that parliament could withdraw the government’s special authorisations any time when the deputies deem the crisis to be over. He also noted that the governments of four other European countries have been granted similar authorisations without a time limit.
Kovacs said that “protecting the health, security and interests of the whole Hungarian population” was a top priority for the government. He insisted that the Hungarian government had managed to avoid “problems that the UK, Italy or Spain could not” because their governments “failed to take firm action when it was necessary”.