Venice Commission: Hungarian law on foreign-funded NGOs still raises concerns
The Hungarian law on foreign-funded NGOs, despite amendments, still raises concerns, the Venice Commission said in an opinion published on Friday.
The Council of Europe’s advisory body, composed of independent experts in constitutional law, said that it had adopted an opinion clarifying its preliminary opinion. The law, passed this week, only partly satisfies the preliminary opinion’s main recommendations, the Venice Commission said.
The Commission again acknowledged that the aim of ensuring transparency of civil society organisations in order to prevent undue foreign political influence, money laundering and terrorism-financing is, in principle, legitimate.
“However, the commission stressed that this legitimate aim may not be used to stigmatise NGOs or restrict their ability to carry out their activities. This effect would go beyond the legitimate aim of transparency,” the opinion showed.
“The Venice Commission praised the removal of provision in the law for the automatic sanction of “dissolution” for non-respect by an association of obligations imposed by the law, notably the failure to report foreign funding beyond a certain annual threshold,” it added.
The revised opinion showed that the broad exceptions to the application of the law, notably the recently added exception for national minorities organisations, coupled with the negative rhetoric that continues to surround this matter, cast a doubt on the genuine aim pursued by the law.
It added that the obligation to mention foreign-funding on all press products of an NGO has been maintained, which is clearly disproportionate and unnecessary in a democratic society.
“The commission also regretted that no public consultations were held prior to the final adoption of the law,” it said.
“For these reasons, the Venice Commission found that the amendments adopted by parliament on 13 June are not sufficient to alleviate the concerns that the law causes disproportionate and unnecessary interference with freedom of expression and association, the right to privacy and freedom from discrimination”, the revised opinion showed.
The Venice Commission said on its website that the final version of the revised preliminary opinion will be made available on Monday 19 June.
In addition, it said that a delegation of the Venice Commission will visit the Central European University, NGOs and government officials in Hungary to prepare an opinion on another Hungarian law that could close the George Soros-founded university in October.