The draft law on NGOs has just been submitted to the Hungarian Parliament, targeting the George Soros foundation. It comes a few days after parliament accepted another bill made it impossible for the Soros founded Central European University to operate.
The idea of this draft law became public a few weeks ago, but then the government said that it would be voted on in May, at the end of a national consultation process which questions foreign-supported organizations. Hungary’s prime minister Viktor Orban launched a communication battle against the Hungarian-born American billionaire a few months ago.
The proposed law submitted to parliament singles out civil society organisations for new restrictions justified by national security concerns and the need for additional transparency. The law would impose additional reporting burdens on non-governmental organisations that already comply with many transparency measures, including statutory requirements to publish all funding.
According to the government this bill creates the opportunity to make it clear to the public which organisations wish to influence the opinion of the Hungarian state and individual citizens’ behavior. The draft law is very similar to ones already adopted in Russia and Israel.
According to George Soros’ Open Society Foundation the draft NGO law is stigmatising, discriminatory and unnecessary, and aims to silence government critics.
Goran Buldioski, director of the Open Society Foundation’s work in Europe, said: “This law is clearly a thinly-veiled political bid to put pressure on critical voices in a time of growing authoritarianism. This law attacks the people who have helped citizens challenge corruption and arbitrary power, who have stood up for free and independent media and for open debate. The notion that any of this represents a threat to national security is patently absurd.”
Earlier this month, the Hungarian parliament passed a law that deliberately targeted the Central European University, an independent university founded over 25 years ago by Soros.
The Open Society Foundation has given more than $400m to Hungary since first funding civil society organisations in Eastern Europe in the 1980s. Open Society is one of a number of international foundations that support Hungarian civil society groups, but remains the largest, providing $3.6m in grants to 45 different groups working on transparency, independent media, minority rights, civic engagement and human rights issues.