Former United States Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice has called for Hungary to be expelled from the European Union after the country passed emergency measures to combat the Wuhan coronavirus.
Ms Rice, who served as UN Ambassador and later National Security Advisor in the administration of former President Barack Obama, demanded that Hungary be removed from the European Union, stating: “Kick Hungary out of the EU.”
The comments were made in response to measures taken by the Hungarian government led by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, labelled the “Coronavirus Protection Act”, which critics say allows the Hungarian government to rule by decree without the need for parliamentary consent.
The Hungarian government rebuffed claims about the new law stating that parliament is able to lift the state of emergency “at any time” and that the measures do not dissolve parliament either.
In a tweet quoted by former Ambassador Rice, it was also claimed that the Hungarians would be handing down prison sentences of up to 5 years for “spreading fake news and rumours”.
According to the text of the law, which was released by the Hungarians on Tuesday, the measures are more specific and cover those intentionally spreading false information.
“The law makes it a criminal act to intentionally spread false information and distortions that could undermine or thwart efforts to protect the public against the spread of the virus. It’s in force only during the state of danger,” government spokesman Zoltan Kovacs wrote.
Hungary to UN: If You Can’t Help Us Fight Pandemic, Get Out of the Way https://t.co/TeJBjW72j1
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) March 31, 2020
Several European countries have passed sweeping authoritarian laws to tackle the coronavirus pandemic, from banning people from meeting in groups of more than two in public, to requiring citizens to fill out a government form in order to leave their own homes. Yet international criticism for unprecedented attacks on civil liberties in Europe seems to be limited to Hungary, where moves by other countries are quietly accepted.
Ms Rice went on to further criticise Prime Minister Orbán on Tuesday in an interview with broadcaster MSNBC, where she said: “We’ve had a problem in Hungary for a while where Orbán has repeatedly demonstrated his autocratic tendencies, but this power grab is near complete. He’s taken all the reins indefinitely, [and] there’s nothing to check him.”
She went on to also criticise U.S. President Donald Trump for using the term “Wuhan virus” which she said was “designed to stigmatise people of Asian descent”.
Leftist politicians, such as Tanja Fajon of the Slovenian Social Democrats, have also criticised Hungary over the issue. “This is a shame for Europe, its fundamental values and democracy. [Orbán] abused coronavirus as an excuse to kill democracy and media freedom,” Fajon said.
Tamas Harangozo, a member of Hungary’s Socialist Party, said that opposition parties within Hungary were concerned about the time limits on the emergency powers but were united in granting the government the powers to fight the coronavirus pandemic.