In these times of pandemic, let us defend European values: democracy and human rights

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On Monday, March 30, the Hungarian parliament granted Prime Minister Viktor Orban indefinite “full powers” to deal with the epidemic of the coronavirus that is afflicting the country. During a period, of which the expiration is not announced, but just linked to the end of the pandemic, the head of government will have full latitude to govern by ordinance, without the need to have its decisions ratified by parliament. Anyone who disseminates “false” information will be liable to a criminal conviction.

Faced with reactions from national opposition forces, criticism from other European Union member states, the European Commission and the reservations expressed by the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Mr Orban replied, through his spokesperson on the governmental website, that “if the Council of Europe is not able to help, then they should keep  quiet”. This response was later withdrawn and replaced by the assertion that the pandemic law is consistent with the principles of the rule of law.

We, Christian-inspired organisations and movements which are members of the Conference of International Non-Governmental Organisations of the Council of Europe, express our deepest condemnation at this contemptuous response. It shows a total ignorance not only of the role of the Secretary General, but above all of the member’s rights and duties of a state which was warmly welcomed there in 1990, the first of “new democracies ”resulting from the collapse of communist regimes in Eastern Europe.

Being a member means not only respecting human rights, the principles of the rule of law and democracy, but also considering that these rights and principles are a common heritage for which all member states must feel jointly responsible. Remind states to respect their obligations to which they have freely consented, implement dialogue and cooperation when difficulties or exceptional situations arise, agree to review political choices and behavior which are in contradiction with these rights and principles: that is being a full member of the Council of Europe.

We reaffirm our attachment to this Organization and the values ​​which it defends and ask the Member States to show the same fidelity and the same attachment in the defense of this common heritage which was bequeathed to us by the founders. It is up to all the Member States and the actors of civil society to live by these values and make them fruitful.

The pandemic will not be overcome if democracy is humiliated or fundamental rights trampled on. Our societies will only emerge from this ordeal if the price to pay for the recovery of the health situation does not lead to the decline of our values, of solidarity and brotherhood which are at the heart of the European project.

Together we can win this fight!


 AIC, Association Internationale des Charités

CEP, Colloque Européen des Paroisses

Justice et Paix Europe

MIAMSI, Mouvement International d’Apostolat des Milieux Sociaux indépendants

MIIC – Pax Romana, Mouvement International des Intellectuels Catholiques

OCIPE, Office catholique d’information et d’initiative pour l’Europe

OIEC, Office International d’Enseignement Catholique

Pax Christi International

Réseau Européen Eglises et Libertés EN-RE

UMOFC, Union Mondiale des Organisations Féminines Catholiques

UNAEC-Europe, Union européenne des anciens et anciennes élèves de l’enseignement catholique

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