Budapest, April 5 (MTI) – Hungary’s five parliamentary parties met on Wednesday to discuss a bill drafted by ruling Fidesz that would require civil groups receiving foreign donations above a certain threshold to register as organisations funded from abroad.
Fidesz deputy group leader Gergely Gulyás said after the talks that experiences over the past two years showed the importance of unveiling the financing of civil organisations with foreign donors so that “Hungary can protect itself”.
Under Fidesz’s bill, non-governmental organisations receiving more than 7.2 million forints (EUR 23,300) from foreign donors would have to register as foreign-backed groups, Gulyás said. The party plans to submit the bill to parliament later this week, he added.
Gulyás said civil groups supported by Hungarian-born American billionaire George Soros were “ramping up their attacks against Hungary” with a view to dismantling its border protection system and forcing the free flow of migrants into the country. Gulyás accused the NGOs of having encouraged — either covertly or openly — the violation of Hungary’s laws. He insisted it was crucial that the backers of NGOs are made public regardless of whether an organisation gets funding “from Soros, Russia or an EU member”.
The opposition Socialist Party, Jobbik and LMP all rejected the bill.
Socialist politician Gergely Bárándy said his party rejected any proposal that serves as a tool for discriminating or attacking civil groups. He branded the bill as being part of measures aimed at repeatedly “hassling” civil organisations that represent a position different from that of the government.
“The government does not tolerate any criticism and, if there is no other possibility, prevents through motions or administrative acts their criticism,” he said, likening the situation to Putin’s Russia.
Jobbik lawmaker István Szávay said the bill was unprofessionally drafted and politically motivated with the aim to “stir up hysteria” in the Hungarian public and “create an enemy.” He insisted that the bill would fail to increase NGO transparency. Jobbik agrees to be partner to an overall reform of the civil sphere but does not consider it a problem if an NGO in Hungary receives funding from abroad, Szávay told reporters.
LMP co-chair Ákos Hadházy called the bill “a dirty little law” which fails to improve transparency but puts “a yellow star” next to the names of civil organisations that fight graft. He said it served as an attempt to divert attention from important issues such as the scrapping of health-care institutions.
The three opposition lawmakers all criticised the pro-government Civil Unity Forum (CÖF) over a lack of transparency of the sources and spending of its funding.