In response to the news that the European Commission has decided to begin infringement proceedings to hold Hungary to account for its law stigmatising non-governmental organisations (NGOs) receiving funding from abroad, Iverna McGowan, Director of the Amnesty International, European Institutions Office said:
“Hungary’s NGO law was designed to stigmatize and vilify NGOs. Today’s action from the European Commission sends a strong signal that such onslaughts against civil society are not acceptable in the European Union.”
“Amnesty International will not comply with the law unless compelled to do so by a court. It is in flagrant violation of EU law and the fundamental right to freedom of association. Hungary must drop the law before it causes further damage to civil society and the valuable services they provide to Hungarian society.”
The deadline for “foreign funded” NGOs registration was 12 July 2017. Amnesty International Hungary’s membership has decided not to comply with the registration requirement; instead the organization is submitting a constitutional appeal.
From Tuesday 27 June NGOs had 15 days to register, if not the prosecutor will ask them to do it within 30 days and if not again, in a further 15 days. If an NGO still refuses, the court may issue sanctions for not complying including:
– A fine up to around 3000 euro (2917),
– Convene a General Meeting of the NGO to restore lawful operation
– Eventual dissolution of the NGO
Hungary’s prime minister Viktor Orban is eyeing the upcoming 2018 election with what has been called the ‘anti-Soros’ university law, but has also been targeting foreign-funded NGOs.
A few months ago, tax investigators raided the offices of Hungarian environmental group Energia Klub, seizing hundreds of documents and computer files as part of what they said was a “criminal investigation into budgetary fraud”.
Orban has been widely criticized at home and abroad for his tough actions against NGOs, which extended to 62 organizations and lasted for more than a year but uncovered no wrongdoing.