In a recent diplomatic fallout, Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto has urged the Nordic countries to stop spreading “lies” and “fake news” about Hungary. The Nordic ambassadors were also summoned for talks.
The reason for the Hungarian anger is the joint letter penned by the Nordic foreign ministers to the European Council, in which they express concern about Hungarian democracy and the rule of law in the country due to the extra emergency powers the Hungarian government obtained during the coronavirus pandemic.
Szijjarto called criticism both excessive and false.
“Lies about building a dictatorship with an infinite and limitless power and so on,” Szijjarto wrote of the Nordic letter on Facebook. “Let's make one thing clear: Hungary is a nation that dates back over a millennium and has not asked for any pathetic and hypocritical guidance. Trust that we, the Hungarian people, can decide for ourselves what we want and do not want” he added.
In a formal reply, Szijjarto expressed his “deep concern and disappointment” over “politically motivated attacks against his country”. He assured of the proportionality and necessity of the measures taken and voiced concern over “circulating fake news” about the members of the European family.
The letter from the Nordic Ministers to the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Marija Pejcinovic Buric, was penned at the initiative of Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod and was sent on 6 May.
“We welcome your letter of 24 March to Prime Minister Orbán and we share the concern expressed in that letter. We fully support your reminder to all of us member states that measures taken under the pandemic's exceptional circumstances must comply with national constitutions and international legal standards and the core of democratic principles. They must be proportionate and limited in time”, Denmark's Jeppe Kofod, Finland's Pekka Haavisto, Iceland's Gudlaugur Thor Thordarson, Norway's Ine Eriksen Søreide and Sweden's Ann Linde wrote. “Even in an emergency, the rule of law must come first,” they concluded.
Pejcinovic Buric, former Foreign Minister of Croatia, was one of the first to react to the Hungarian emergency laws.
Following the corona crisis, a formal emergency was introduced in Hungary on 11 March. The government's powers have since been extended so that it can now govern by decree indefinitely, without having to anchor their decisions in parliament.
With nearly 3,300 confirmed Covid-19 cases and 421 deaths, Hungary is among the least-hit European nations. Now, it is introducing a gradual lifting of restrictions following a weeks-long lockdown. Social distancing measures and face masks will remain mandatory nationwide.