Poland and Hungary’s Coronavirus Power Grabs

As Europe is struggling to find a common response to the coronavirus and its economic fallout, some national leaders are taking advantage of the crisis to consolidate their power. Recent political choices in Hungary and Poland will not only shape each country’s future, but also its place in the EU.

On March 30, the Hungarian parliament granted Prime Minister Viktor Orbán the right to rule by decree for an unlimited period of time – power that can be used for more than fighting the pandemic. In contrast, Poland finds itself on the verge of a serious constitutional crisis and political chaos as its government refuses to postpone the presidential elections scheduled for May 10. Given current uncertainties, nobody – including the candidates, officials responsible for organizing the elections, and voters – can be sure when and in what form these elections will take place.

In this Web Talk, we took stock of the latest developments in Poland and Hungary. We discussed possible scenarios ahead of the political showdown in Warsaw and assess the initial period of Viktor Orbán’s rule by decrees in Budapest. We did not only analyze the significant differences between the two cases, but also the reactions from across Europe to these latest power grabs.


Wojciech Szacki,
Head of the Political Desk at Polish Think Tank Polityka Insight

Zsuzsanna Vegh,
Associate Researcher at the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) and Research Fellow/Lecturer at European University Viadrina

Matthias Kolb,
Correspondent for EU and NATO at Süddeutsche Zeitung

Moderated by:

Milan Nič,
Head of DGAP’s Robert Bosch Center for Central and Eastern Europe, Russia, and Central Asia


05 May 2020
Event location


Web Talk
Think Tank Event
Core Expertise region