Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban has declared a state of emergency in the EU country because of the Ukraine war. As Orban announced on Tuesday evening, the state of emergency that will apply from midnight is intended to protect the country from the economic effects of the Russian war of aggression in Ukraine.

Shortly before, the parliament in Budapest had created the possibility of declaring a state of emergency if a neighboring country is affected by an armed conflict, war or humanitarian catastrophe. Ukraine, against which Russia has been waging a war of aggression for three months, is one of Hungary’s neighbors.

Shortly before the end of the current corona emergency at the end of the month, Orban had found a way to continue to govern by decree. The parliament in Budapest created a new category of emergency on Tuesday. The 136 MPs of the right-wing nationalist Fidesz party voted for the corresponding constitutional amendment.

The health emergency that Orban imposed at the beginning of the corona pandemic in spring 2020 and that Parliament has since extended several times expires on May 31. With the constitutional change and the new state of emergency, Orban can repeal existing laws and take coercive measures by decree. Parliament must confirm this after 15 days at the latest. Given the vast majority of Orban-led Fidesz party, this is considered a formality.

Orban also used the health emergency for purposes that could hardly be justified by overcoming the health situation. These included measures to financially damage opposition-governed communities or to give advantages to pro-government businessmen.

Hungary has long been criticized for possible violations of the rule of law. EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced in April that her authority would take the first step of the so-called rule of law mechanism against the country. “In Hungary, we made it very clear, the problem is corruption,” von der Leyen said at the time.