In a letter sent on Tuesday to Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, the Secretary General of the Council of Europe Marija Pejčinović Burić, has called for compliance with democratic standards when imposing emergency measures aiming at halting the spread of COVID-19.
“I should like to underline that the measures which member states take in the present exceptional circumstances of the pandemic must comply with both national constitutions and international standards, and observe the very essence of democratic principles,” reads the letter.
The SG acknowledged that given the extraordinary situation caused by the pandemic, member states are prompted to take measures that “restrict a number of individual rights and liberties enshrined in constitutions and in the European Convention on Human Rights.”
She stressed, however, the need for proportionality when taking drastic measures and highlighted the importance of safeguarding fundamental freedoms, such as freedom of expression and access to information to “maintain trust and confidence within society.”
On Friday, Orbán put before the national parliament a draft law that would give his government sweeping powers to rule by decree, without a clear cut-off date and safeguards, and to extend the state of emergency until the end of 2020.