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19 Jun 2017

European Center for Not-for-Profit Law (Hungary)

Hungary: NGO examines negative consequences of new law on foreign-funded organisations

"What’s at stake? Hungary’s new Law on the Transparency of Organizations Supported from Abroad: A briefing paper by the European Center for Not-for-Profit Law", 15 Jun 2017

On 13 June 2017, Hungary’s Parliament adopted the Law on the Transparency of Organisations Supported from Abroad (i.e., foreign funded organisations), legislation widely viewed by intergovernmental and civil society organisations (CSOs) as a major obstacle to the work of Hungarian CSOs and their interactions with civil society domestically and internationally... This is the first law of its kind in a European Union (EU) country...ECNL highlights five key concerns about the new Law: 

1.  A threat to civil society’s survival: If an organisation fails to register and meet requirements under the Law, it may be fined up to 900,000 HUF (approx. €3,000) and terminated. Under international law, dissolution of a CSO is a measure of last resort, to be used only in cases of serious misconduct....

2. Stirring distrust and suspicion: The new categorization and labelling, coupled with the government’s broader negative campaign against foreign funded groups, opens the door for stigmatization. 

3. Threatening services for those most in need: [I]t will likely have an effect on civil society broadly, including organisations working on social service delivery, humanitarian aid, and environmental protection – all of whom also receive foreign funds... 

4. Is it really about transparency? No. Hungarian CSOs are already subject to stringent transparency requirements which are in line with international standards.

5. The law and international standards. In recent months CSOs from Hungary and Europe, and the international community (e.g.,  Venice Commission, CoE Conference of INGOs Expert Council on NGO Law; EU Parliament; UN Special Rapporteurs), have warned that the Law violates international standards.