Hungary’s foreign minister defends civil organisation transparency law
Access to information on foreign funding to non-governmental organisations is a legitimate need of the Hungarian public, the foreign minister said on Wednesday.
Péter Szijjártó reacted to comments by German foreign ministry spokesman Martin Schaefer that the German government is “very concerned” about a law passed by parliament on Tuesday that requires civil groups in Hungary receiving foreign donations above a certain threshold to register as organisations funded from abroad.
Schaefer said that by passing the law without consulting those it concerns, Hungary “joins the ranks” of countries like Russia, China and Israel which he said consider the funding of NGOs by foreign donors “a hostile or at least an unfriendly act”.
Speaking at a press conference on another subject, Szijjártó said: “You would expect a Social Democrat-led German foreign ministry to only express criticism against other countries based on precise information and not biased, baseless accusations.”
“What is the German government afraid could come to light regarding the funding of civil groups?” Szijjártó asked.
The minister said the impression that NGOs represent the people against a government was “false”, arguing that civil groups were never elected.
Civil groups are important and it is important that they express their views on certain issues “but since they aim to shape public opinion by doing so”, they must disclose any funding they receive from abroad, Szijjarto said.
He said it was “strange” that the German government was criticising a law that was passed to create transparency.
“We, of course, will continue to refrain from criticising legislative measures of other EU member states,” Szijjártó said.