Brussels (MTI) – The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) approved a resolution on Hungary which is critical but seeks cooperation, the head of the Hungarian parliament’s foreign affairs committee said on Thursday.
PACE held a debate on the situation in Hungary concerning legislation affecting the Central European University and NGOs.
Zsolt Németh told MTI by phone after the debate in Strasbourg that the resolution, which is not precise in terms of the details of the Hungarian regulations, “aims at objectivity and proposes dialogue”.
PACE said it would consult the CoE’s constitutional experts in the Venice Commission to establish if Hungary’s higher education law and the planned law on NGOs were in line with CoE norms, he said. In the resolution, PACE called on Hungary to work together with the CoE and endorse the recommendations of the Venice Commission, he added.
Németh said the debate demonstrated that the European People’s Party and several national delegations “supported Hungary’s values-based approach”. Thursday’s debate on civil organisations highlighted an issue that demands proper answers at a pan-European level in terms of the transparency of these organisations’ operations and financing, he added. He expressed hope that new regulations would be introduced in the CoE and in European Union institutions in connection with this issue.
PACE said in a statement that it was calling on Hungary to suspend the parliamentary debate on the draft law on the “Transparency of Organisations receiving Foreign Funding” and the implementation of the act amending the National Higher Education Act, pending the opinion of experts from the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission.
PACE said it was concerned about the lack of internal public consultation on the draft of the NGO law and called on Hungary to start open dialogue with organisations in the sector, the CoE and other international organisations.
“The Assembly agrees that NGOs must be transparent about their sources of funds, but cannot accept the allegation that civil society organisations serve foreign interest groups, rather than the public interest, and may endanger the national security and sovereignty of a country simply because they receive foreign funding over a certain yearly threshold,” the statement said.
Mogens Jensen (Denmark, SOC) said “a dynamic civil society is a cornerstone of any democratic society … today we can effectively and constructively offer our expertise to improve the draft before it is too late.”
Photo: Council of Europe/MTi