The coronavirus has exposed all the EU’s underlying weaknesses. Nowhere is this clearer than Hungary. Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has not only restricted entry to tourists and other nonessential travelers. In recent days, one non-Hungarian with legal residency in the country trying to reenter Hungary by air was reportedly asked by border police to sign documents that read: “I represent a real, immediate, and serious danger to Hungary’s public policy, public security, national security, and public health, and therefore I am denied entry into Hungary and take note of that decision, as well as the fact that I have no right of appeal.”
Orbán is not allowing a good crisis to go to waste, using this national emergency as a cover to abolish what remains of Hungarian democracy. Since 2010, Orbán has consolidated control over previously independent institutions like the press and judiciary, strangled Hungary’s civil society, abused EU farm subsidies, and lavished money on white elephant soccer stadiums while Hungary’s health care system starves. Now, Orbán is seeking to institute an “enabling act” that would establish government by decree, suspending Parliament and granting him dictatorial powers. Showing characteristic bravery on Monday, Brussels declined to comment on Orbán’s pursuit of one-man, one-party rule.
At least Brussels seems aware of its shortcomings. “It is vital that the EU shows it is a Union that protects and that solidarity is not an empty phrase,” its foreign minister, Josep Borrell, said Monday.