The US State Department expressed concern over legislation Hungary’s parliament recently adopted on foreign-funded NGOs, in a statement released on its website.
The statement concerns the law the national assembly passed last Tuesday requiring civil groups receiving foreign donations above a threshold of 7.2 million forints (EUR 23,400) per year to register with a court as organisations funded from abroad.
In a statement issued on Monday, the State Department said the new law “unfairly burdens and targets Hungarian civil society, which is working to fight corruption and protect civil liberties”.
“By portraying groups supported with foreign funding as acting against the interests of Hungarian society, this legislation would weaken the ability of Hungarians to organize and address concerns in a legitimate and democratic manner,” said the statement.
The State Department gave warning that the legislation would qualify as “another step away from Hungary’s commitments to uphold the principles and values that are central to the EU and NATO”.
The government spokesman’s office responded to the statement saying that “Soros organisations would never be allowed to do in the US what they do in Europe.” The US State Department’s statement is “yet another striking example of the double standards” being applied to Hungary, the office said in a statement, arguing that the US has “far stricter” rules in place for organisations receiving support from abroad.
The office said that ever since the legislation on foreign-funded NGOs was first proposed, the international media had been waging a “deceitful disinformation campaign” about the law “in effective collaboration with the Soros organisations”. It added that it “regrets to see that even the US State Department has also been deceived”.
The office said that if the State Department had a “credible picture” of the law, it would see that it had been modelled on the US’s Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) but “is far more lenient”. Under FARA, organisations in the US financed from abroad have had to register themselves since 1938, the office said.
The Hungarian law “in no way threatens” the operations of civil organisations or the right of association, the office insisted. Its only novelty is that foreign donations to civil groups need to be made transparent, just as it is required in the US, the spokesman’s office added.
The law aims to shine a spotlight on organisations “using foreign money and acting in favour of foreign interests” to try to influence Hungarian public life and Hungary’s migration policy, the statement said.
It was the second statement from US State Department, read here the first statement: US GOVERNMENT EXPRESSES CONCERN OVER HUNGARY’S FOREIGN-FUNDED NGO TRANSPARENCY LAW