The Venice Commission – the Council of Europe’s advisory body of independent constitutional law experts – has asked the Hungarian parliament to reject legislation designed to curtail the activities of NGOs deemed to be supporting illegal immigration, a law that has been dubbed the “Stop Soros” bill by the country’s right-wing populist Prime Minister Viktor Orban.
The bill is part of Orban’s campaign against EU migration policies and against George Soros, the Hungarian-born U.S. financier who is known for funding liberal, pro-democracy causes in Eastern Europe.
Venice Commission President Gianni Buquicchio met with Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto on June 18 at the Council of Europe headquarters in Strasbourg to discuss the Orban’s “Stop Soros” initiative. Buquicchio called on the Hungarian Parliament not to proceed with adopting the law prior to the publication of the European Commission’s review of the situation on June 22. Buquicchio also urged Szijjarto to take into account the Commission’s recommendations as they appear in the draft opinion, which has already been sent to the Hungarian authorities.
Orban’s government has proposed amending the constitution which would to specifically reject the European Union’s proposed quotas to distribute migrants around the bloc by declaring that an “alien population” cannot be settled in Hungary.
The UN refugee agency UNHCR has also urged Hungary to scrap the bill, saying it would deprive refugees and asylum-seekers of vital services and encourage “rising xenophobic attitudes”.
The . “Stop Soros” legislative package includes the mandatory registration of some non-government organisations that “support illegal immigration”, according to an emailed government position paper.
Soros, 87, is a Hungarian-born Jew who has long championed liberal and open-border values in Eastern Europe. This has put him at odds with right-wing nationalists in Hungary and Poland, where Soros is accused of undermining “traditional values” in favour of liberal democratic norms.
In 2016, the Orban government introduced a draconian measure that required foreign-funded NGOs to register with the state, which raised alarm bells in the European Union and the United States that Hungary was backsliding on the rule-of-law.
The European Commission said late last year that it was taking Budapest to the EU’s top court over its NGO laws as well as a higher education law that targeted Soros’ Central European University in Budapest.
Orban is locked in a series of running battles with the EU, the Western European Member States, and the Brussels-based Commission who decry what they see as his authoritarian leanings.