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Hungarian Government Gets New Powers After Prime Minister Viktor Orbán Declares State of Emergency

The prime minister said the government will now be able to ‘react immediately and protect Hungary and Hungarian families by all possible means’

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán of Hungary declared a state of emergency due to the ongoing conflict between Ukraine and Russia.

The move expands the powers available to the government and permits new measures to be approved by decree.

In a Facebook video on May 24, Orbán said it was vital that Hungary stay out of the war to “protect families’ financial security” and stabilize the nation’s economy.

“The world is on the brink of an economic crisis,” the prime minister added in the video, per Reuters. He said the expansion of federal power will “allow the government to react immediately and protect Hungary and Hungarian families by all possible means.”

Cost-of-living surged in Hungary following Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine. As of May 26, Budapest was an estimated 16% more expensive than Kyiv.

Annual inflation has surged to 9.5 percent, while the budget deficit ballooned in the first quarter due to a pre-election spending spree,” reports The Express.

The emergency powers were granted through a new provision created after the government amended its constitution to allow for a state of emergency declaration if a neighboring country experiences a natural disaster or armed conflict. In Hungary, a state of emergency is referred to as a “state of danger.”

“Under the changes, the government will have the power to suspend some laws or deviate from their stipulations to ensure the security of residents, their assets, as well as the stability of the national economy,” reports Big News Network.

Orbán announced a new “windfall tax” on banks, insurers, telecommunications, airlines and energy trading companies. The additional revenue will be used for additional military funding and to avoid “drastic price increases.”

Under new directives issued by the prime minister, Orbán’s chief of staff can now oversee national intelligence services. The move has been criticized by his opponents as a form of overreach that damages the power of parliament.

“We must not be discouraged by being shouted at, by being labeled unfit, or by being treated as troublemakers,” Orbán said at the Conservative Political Action Conference last week. “In fact, it is suspicious if none of this happens. Please note that anyone who plays by the rules of his opponents will certainly lose.”

Orbán won a fourth consecutive term in office in April, making him the longest-serving head of government in the European Union. His party, the Fidesz party, holds a two-thirds majority in parliament. 

During his 12 years in office, Orbán has been attacked by other EU leaders for holding nationalist views and for opposing immigration.

The prime minister has refused to allow weapons to be delivered to Ukraine through his country and has spoken out against the EU’s planned oil embargo levied against Russia.

“Today we have made another decision that we will not allow deliveries of lethal weapons to transit the territory of Hungary,” said Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Peter Szijjarto in a video on Feb. 28. We Hungarians… made our position very clear that Hungary is not sending troops to Ukraine and Hungary is not sending weapons to Ukraine because we do not want to get involved in this war.”

“The reason for making this decision is that such deliveries might become targets of hostile military action, and I want to underline again that we have to ensure the security of Hungary and the Hungarian people,” he added.

The state of emergency issued during the COVID-19 pandemic is also still in effect in Hungary.

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