Open letter: the EU must not sit idly by while a Member State’s democracy is in jeopardy

Author
Nuri Syed Corser
Date
15 April, 2020
Type
Article
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The following letter, signed by over 80 MEPs and civil society groups, was sent to the presidents of the European Commission and Council:


Dear President von der Leyen,
 

Dear President Michel, 

The coronavirus pandemic represents an urgent global challenge. Governments and EU institutions must act decisively to control its spread, protect citizens, and limit economic damage in the European Union. 

However, the crisis must not serve as a smokescreen for anti-democratic activities and the stifling of active civil society, that can exacerbate corruption and undermine Goal 16 of the SDGs: ‘Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels. 

Exceptional times, of course, demand exceptional measures and it may be legitimate for governments to temporarily use extraordinary powers to manage the situation. Nevertheless, even in a crisis, these measures must be time-limited and proportionate. We cannot allow unscrupulous political actors to use the current climate as a pretext for dismantling democracy and undermining the rule of law. 

The recent actions of Viktor Orbán’s government in Hungary are a flagrant attack on the cornerstones of the rule of law and the values of the Union.  Last week, the government overrode the objections of the opposition and civil society, granting the Prime Minister indefinite powers to rule by decree. This law has also mandated draconian prison sentences for spreading ‘misinformation’ which could be used to stifle independent journalism.  

These measures have a chilling effect on free speech and anticipate the potential to suffocate those remaining elements of the checks and balances system in Hungary which survived the past ten years of almost uninterrupted democratic backsliding resulting from Viktor Orbán’s rule.  

The European Union must not sit idly by while a Member State’s democracy is in jeopardy.    

We also remind you that previous actions of the European Union failed to prevent the Hungarian government from going along a path that leads to the disruption of democratic institutions, marginalising of civil society, and the undermining of the rule of law. Therefore, we call on the European Commission and the Council to more strictly control the spending of EU funds and to enhance current measures that prevent the creation of an illiberal system within our Union.  

We therefore urge you to unequivocally condemn the Hungarian government’s misuse of the coronavirus crisis to erode democratic values. The European Commission and the Council must also take swift and decisive actions to address these threats to the rule of law being carried out under the guise of emergency powers. 

Respectfully,

Transparency International EU 

Transparency International Hungary  

Access Info 

Africa Solidarity Centre Ireland 

Alliance4Europe 

AMARC Europe: World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters 

ARTICLE 19 

Association of European Journalists  

Campaign for Freedom of Information Scotland 

Citizens Network Watchdog Poland 

Civil Society Europe 

Corporate Europe Observatory 

Danes je nov dan / Today is a new day  

The Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation 

Defend Democracy 

Democracy International 

EU DisinfoLab 

European Centre for Press and Media Freedom

European Federation of Journalists 

European Humanist Federation 

EuropeanMay 

European Movement International 

European Youth Forum 

Staffan Dahllöf (Freelance reporter) 

Antonis Ventouris (Freelance) 

Freemuse

Free Press Unlimited 

Fundacja Miasto Obywatelskie Lubartów 

Funky Citizens 

Global Forum for Media Development 

Gong 

The Good Lobby  

Human Rights Watch 

Hungarian Civil Liberties Union 

Hungarian Europe Society 

Hungarian Helsinki Committee  

International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association, Europe 

International Press Institute 

JEF Europe (Young European Federalists) 

Lawyers for Human Rights 

Vigjilenca Abazi (of Maastricht University) 

Mertek Media Monitor 

Netherlands Helsinki Committee 

Open Society European Policy Institute

Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso Transeuropa 

The Oslo Center 

Professor Laurent Pech  (of Middlesex University) 

Poets, Essayists and Novelists International 

Reporters Without Borders  

Solidar and Solidar Foundation 

Unhack Democracy

 Vouliwatch 

 WeMove Europe 

 

Daniel Freund MEP, Co-ChairAnti-Corruption Intergroup

Petri Sarvamaa MEP, Bureau Member, Anti-Corruption Intergroup  

Lara Wolters MEP, Bureau Member, Anti-Corruption Intergroup 

Ramona Strugariu MEP, Bureau Member, Anti-Corruption Intergroup 

Stelios Kouloglou MEP, Bureau Member, Anti-Corruption Intergroup 

Abir Al-Sahlani MEP 

Anna Donath MEP 

Benoît Biteau MEP 

Brando Benifei MEP 

Caroline Roose MEP 

Claude Gruffat MEP 

Damien Carême MEP 

David Cormand MEP 

Dimitrios Papadimoulis MEP 

François Alfonsi MEP 

Gwendoline Delbos-Corfield MEP 

Karen Melchior MEP 

Karima Delli MEP 

Marie Toussaint MEP 

Michèle Rivasi MEP 

Mounir Satouri MEP 

Pascal Durand MEP 

Reinhard Bütikofer MEP 

Rosa D’Amato MEP 

Sabrina Pignedoli MEP   

Salima Yenbou MEP 

Sándor Rónai MEP 

Saskia Bricmont MEP 

Tineke Strik MEP 

Yannick Jadot MEP 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

   

Want to know more? Get in touch

Nicholas Aiossa

Deputy Director, Head of Political Integrity
naiossa@transparency.org