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Defying Brussels, Hungary tightens rules on NGOs

Critics say the move aims to crack down on dissent and to stigmatize as 'unpatriotic' those groups backed by Western donors such as George Soros.

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Defying Brussels, Hungary tightens rules on NGOs

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Hungary’s parliament has passed a new law imposing stricter rules on nongovernmental organisations that receive foreign funding, defying warnings from the European Union and civil rights groups.

All organisations getting more than 84,000 euros a year from abroad must register with the authorities and declare their ‘foreign’ status on their websites and in all related materials. They will also have to list any foreign sponsors giving them more than some $1,800 a year.

Viktor Orban’s ruling Fidesz party says it wants to promote transparency and protect Hungary from foreign influence, but critics say the move aims to crack down on dissent and to stigmatize as ‘‘unpatriotic’ those groups that receive support from Western donors and foundations.

“Amnesty International is a very strong advocate also on the EU level for transparency and accountability, but the fact of the matter is that the current arrangements in Hungary are adequate. NGOs are already obliged to disclose their funding and the authorities are free to audit that. “ said Iverna McGowan, Director of Amnesty International’s European Institutions Office.

“This is clearly an attempt to target NGOs, to undermine their credibility and to make life very difficult. Quite similar laws were introduced in Russia not too long ago,” she added.

Tens of thousands of Hungarians have protested in recent months against measures targeting institutions backed by the billionaire philanthropist George Soros, an ideological enemy for Orban’s right-wing government.

Amendments to the bill took into account some of the recommendations made by the Venice Commission, a European group of legal experts, but most of the disputed regulations remained in place.