Debate on NGO transparency bill – LMP calls Fidesz deputies ‘foreign agents’, Fidesz rejects accusations
Budapest, April 19 (MTI) – The real danger to Hungary is posed not by independent civil organisations but by politicians “who sit in parliament as foreign agents”, Bernadett Szél, co-leader of the opposition LMP, said on Wednesday ahead of a parliamentary debate on a government bill on the transparency of civil groups. Fidesz’s bill on foreign-funded NGOs does not aim to stigmatise the organisations but to increase their transparency, Fidesz deputy group leader Gergely Gulyás said in parliament.
Deputies of ruling Fidesz “serve foreign interests” and Prime Minister Viktor Orbán “will do as Russian President Vladimir Putin instructs him”, Szél insisted. “It is politicians financed from abroad who should be stigmatised rather than civil groups,” Szel said.
LMP lawmakers handed out stickers saying “I am paid from abroad” to Fidesz MPs.
Fidesz: Transparency bill not aimed at stigmatising NGOs
In Gulyás speech opening the plenary debate of the bill, Gulyás said that “hysteria notwithstanding”, the proposal “is a simple piece of legislation which seeks similar transparency requirements for NGOs as apply to publicly funded bodies”.
The proposal stipulates that NGOs receiving over 7.2 million forints (EUR 22,900) of funding from abroad should register each year at a court.
Charges that the ruling Fidesz party is following Russian practices regarding NGOs are unfounded since no plans are afoot to prohibit foreign funding, Gulyás said. “We do not intend to follow Russia’s example…” he said.
Data protection authority: NGO transparency bill should be broadened
Legislation on the transparency of NGOs should be broadened to include political parties benefiting from foreign funding, organisations receiving business donations, and bodies which obtain government financial support, according to a letter by the Hungarian National Authority for Data Protection and Freedom of Information (NAIH) released on Wednesday.
The data protection authority said it welcomed the ruling Fidesz party’s move to bring transparency to the operation of NGOs in Hungary. “It is a useful tool to avoid unwanted influence by interest groups”, NAIH head Attila Peterfalvi said. However, the legislation should be broadened to include organisations and political groups supported by business lobbyists from entities both within Hungary and abroad, according to the letter sent to Gergely Gulyás, deputy speaker of parliament and one of the bill’s proponents.
He noted the bill’s justification that foreign interest groups could influence Hungary’s political and social life. Matters affecting the country’s sovereignty are also issues of national security, he said. Furthermore, financial flows linked to organisations funded from abroad deserve public scrutiny in terms of the fight against money laundering, he added.
Lawmakers are debating the bill today.