The European Commission on 13 July sent a “letter of formal notice” to Hungary over that country’s new law on foreign-funded NGOs adopted just one month earlier. The EU Commissioner for Fundamental Rights, Dutch Socialist Frans Timmermans, has alleged that Hungary is in breach of EU fundamental rights law.
Since being appointed in 2014, Mr Timmermans has been involved in something of a personal vendetta against both Hungary and Poland whose conservative governments promote values that fail to correspond to his liberal pro-abortion, pro-LGBT stance.
In Hungary’s case, the Government of Viktor Orban is faced with a very powerful and wealthy opponent in the shape of Hungarian-born George Soros, who bankrolls numerous organisations that seek to undermine conservative governments across Europe and beyond. While opponents of Mr Orban label his Goverment as anti-Semitic, Israel has come out in support of Hungary’s policies to curtail the destabilising and anti-democratic influence of George Soros and his proxies.
The Hungarian law which has upset EU Commissioner Timmermans introduces new obligations for certain categories of NGOs receiving annual foreign funding above HUF 7.2 million (approx. € 24,000) to register and label themselves in all their publications, websites and press material as “organisations supported from abroad”, and to report specific information about the funding they receive from abroad to the Hungarian authorities. These organisations face sanctions if they fail to comply with the new reporting and transparency obligations.
In other words, Hungary is not seeking to stop Mr Soros &Co from funding “NGOs” on its territory, but rather to provide full transparency in the interest of democracy. In an age of “fake news” and “post-truth politics” such transparency is obviously in the interest of Hungarian citizens. But this does not seem to bother Mr Timmermans and the EU Commission.
The Commission’s letter to Hungary is full of vague language, suggesting that the new Hungarian law “could prevent NGOs from raising funds”, “may have a dissuasive effect on the funding from abroad” and “raises concerns as regards the respect of the right to protection of private life and of personal data” for example. The law has not even entered into force and there is no concrete example of a single Hungarian citizen complaining about their rights being infringed.
The Commission has given Hungary one month to respond to their accusations and the Hungarian Government has already indicated that it will do so, fully defending its law which it is convinced is on a firm legal basis. Mr Timmermans in his statement on 13 July made it clear that it will take Hungary to the EU Court if the law is not changed according to its wishes.