US says "troubled" by Hungary's crackdown on foreign-funded NGOs

  • US says

US says "troubled" by Hungary's crackdown on foreign-funded NGOs

14 June 2017Ignoring most of the criticism from overseas, Hungary's ruling party, Fidesz, yesterday pushed through an NGO law that places new restrictions on organizations that receive funding from overseas.

The authorities have attempted to justify the law as a bid to fight against money laundering and worldwide terrorism.

The new law comes amid a general crackdown on dissent and heightened verbal attacks by the government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban on NGOs, especially those funded by billionaire financier George Soros, an American with Hungarian roots.

His government recently passed a law tightening controls over foreign universities in Hungary, which critics say is aimed at the Central European University founded by Soros.

Mr Orban's ruling Fidesz party says it wants to ensure greater transparency and protect Hungary from foreign influence, but NGOs say the bill stigmatises them and is meant to stifle independent voices in the central European country. The law stipulates sanctions to be imposed on the NGOs not abiding by the rule.

Hungarian lawmakers on June 13 approved controversial legislation on foreign-funded nongovernmental organizations.

"It [the law] is stigmatising, because it suggests that organisations that are working for the Hungarian society, with the help of worldwide resources, can be a threat to the country", the NGOs warn.

TASZ receives large contributions from Soros' Open Society Foundations, as does another human rights group, the Hungarian Helsinki Committee, which also said it would boycott the law.

Hungary's ruling Fidesz party reacted to the NGOs pledge to civil disobedience by saying the legislation is necessary to make "Soros' network" more transparent.

Earlier this month the EU's rights watchdog Venice Commission said the bill was "excessive" despite pursuing "legitimate aims", and urged the government to consult local civil society groups. "Soros has declared war on Hungary, wants to dismantle the fence, bring in the immigrants and use his agent organizations for this".

The EU has warned against adopting the law.

Hungary's parliament has separately sparked an worldwide outcry after approving a law in April for the systematic detention of all asylum seekers in camps on the border composed of shipping containers.

The European Parliament adopted a resolution last month condemning Hungary for the "serious deterioration" in the rule of law and fundamental rights, and called on the government to withdraw the bill on foreign-funded NGOs.

Green-Liberal European Parliament member Benedek Javor called on President Janos Ader not to sign the bill into law.

Euronews says that legislators adjusted some of the law's provisions based on feedback from the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe.

It also accused "some state authorities" of staging a "virulent" campaign against NGOs.

The organisation denounced the move for resembling legislation introduced in Russian Federation in 2012 requiring foreign NGOs to register as "foreign agents".