French newspapers at war against Viktor Orbán while France faces sanitary chaos
France closed its schools on the 16th of March while having already 5,830 confirmed coronavirus cases. Widespread confinement was ordered the following day, at the end of which the number of cases was 6,573. Similar decisions have been taken by the Hungarian government when the confirmed numbers of infected people were around one hundred. As a result, France has now over 21,400 victims of the pandemic against less than 300 in Hungary. Despite all this, French newspapers continue their offensive against the Hungarian Prime Minister as if to distract their readers from their own government's irresponsible handling of this health crisis.
Let’s examine some examples of articles written in leading French newspapers about Viktor Orbán over the last few weeks.
According to left-wing Liberation, “by constantly cheating on the facts, the populist rulers end up believing their own lies. The temptation of authoritarianism and even of autocracy seized them again in the crisis, and their nationalism blinded them. The two populist-led governments of the European Union illustrate this once again. In Hungary, Viktor Orbán is seizing the epidemic to impose the use of restrictions without limitation of time… all in obvious contradiction with European rules.”
In another article from the same newspaper, it can be read that, “in the midst of the coronavirus, Viktor Orbán assumes full powers in Hungary.” The article continues: “Under the pretext of protecting his country, the leader of this small nation parades armoured vehicles in the capital, appoints soldiers to the logistics management of hospitals and grants himself full powers for an unlimited period.”
However, Hungarian Minister of State for International Communication and Relations Zoltán Kovács revealed in an interview given to the BBC on Wednesday, that the so-called ‘authorisation law’ was necessary because “we are facing an unknown enemy” and the law allows the government to take swift and firm action. He stressed that Parliament can revoke this special authorisation at any time when it believes the crisis has come to an end.
He additionally underlined that there were four other European countries where the effect of the authorisation was not tied to a specific date in the future. He also highlighted, that by contrast, Vera Jourova, the competent member of the European Commission had said only the day before that the disputed Hungarian legislation was not contrary to EU law.
Yet, the liberal newspaper Le Figaro refers to a joint declaration of thirteen EU countries that seem to warn Hungary while avoiding to mention it specifically. “In this unprecedented situation, it is legitimate for the Member States to adopt extraordinary measures to protect their citizens and overcome the crisis. We are however deeply concerned over the risk of violations of the principles of the rule of law, democracy and fundamental rights resulting from the adoption of certain emergency measures,” write the signatories, including France, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, Spain, Greece, Finland and Belgium.
It is about time these French journalists looked at the disaster going on in their own home country instead of lecturing the Hungarian government which, until now, has proven to be way more efficient in handling this historical health crisis.