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Hungary breaking EU law over foreign-funded NGO crackdown, says ECJ

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By Jack Parrock
 In this Oct. 5, 2015 file photo, a man walks by the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg.
In this Oct. 5, 2015 file photo, a man walks by the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg.   -   Copyright  Geert Vanden Wijngaert/Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Judges at the European Court of Justice (ECJ) have ruled that the Hungarian government is breaking EU law by restricting the financing of NGOs.

The court stated that 'by imposing obligations of registration, declaration and publication on certain categories of civil society organisations directly or indirectly receiving support from abroad exceeding a certain threshold' that Hungary had introduced 'discriminatory and unjustified restrictions'. The ECJ ruled that Hungarian law violates both free movement of capital and fundamental rights.

Back in 2017, the government in Budapest adopted a law to freeze any funding to organisations of over 22,000 euros from outside Hungary, arguing that the money could be used for money laundering or the financing of terrorism.

The restrictions placed on NGO funding was seen as targeting billionaire philanthropist George Soros, and organisations like his Open Society Foundation that support Hungarian NGOs. The government claims these organisations work against the national interest.

Patrick Gaspard, president of the Open Society Foundations, welcomed the Court’s decision, saying:

“This ruling will resonate throughout the European Union as an affirmation that civic engagement is a vital pillar of its democratic values."

Hungary's prime minister Viktor Orban has repeatedly accused donors like Soros, and court judgments by the ECJ, of meddling in the country's political affairs.