The European Union Law Working Group and the Constitutional Law and Politics Working Group host a discussion with Zoltán Szente (Fernand Braudel Fellow, EUI).
Many political science scholars think that modern autocrats favour state of emergency because it provides a source of legitimacy for their exceptional power. An external threat gives them the opportunity to legally break free from the limits of power, because in emergency situations, people are more likely to give up their rights in exchange for their safety. In addition to this, according to conventional wisdom, exceptional power of government poses a serious risk to the system of separation of powers and fundamental rights. If this is a real danger even in consolidated democracies, it can be particularly dangerous in authoritarian regimes, where political power has no effective counterweights. Hungary today is an ideal testing ground for these assumptions, at least for two reasons. First, since March 2020 there has been a continuous special legal order in Hungary. The state of emergency now seems to be becoming permanent, even if its legal basis has changed in the meantime: the state of danger , originally declared because of Covid-19, was prolonged twice, then, in 2022, a constitutional amendment allowed its extension because of the war between Russia and Ukraine. The presentation consists of two parts. On the one hand, it discusses how and with what analytical framework it is possible to assess whether the exceptional power granted in a state of emergency has been abused, i.e. how to measure the rule of law violations in a special legal order. On the other hand, on this basis, it examines the impact of the exceptional power on the rule of law and constitutional democracy in Hungary over the last four years.