#IStandWithNGOs: how did civil society react to Hungary’s law on NGOs

07 July 2017 | Uncategorised

On 13 June 2017, the Hungarian Parliament adopted a new law on “Transparency of Organisations supported from abroad”. Behind these words stands a strong control of the government over civil society organisations, working especially on human rights and Rule of Law.

As explained by the European Center for Not-for-Profit Law in a briefing paper on 15 June 2017, the new law introduces a status of organisation supported from abroad, a term which will label any Hungary-based organisation receiving more than 7,2 million HUF (ca. 24 000 EUR) in a tax year. Beyond the administrative label which implies additional burden, such organisations will have to clearly show their status publicly, on their websites and any other communication material they produce.  Failure to comply with the required administrative and publication requirements might result in the dissolution of dissident NGOs.

Together with a limited access to funding, the law is worrying in the sense that it hinders NGOs’ daily work and creates concerns over possible multiplying effects throughout the EU. Although it is the first law of this kind in the EU, there are already similar legislations in other countries, another source of concern for civic actors. They namely consider this Hungary’s law as a strong attempt to silence NGOs and to shut down any dissident voice against Orban and his illiberal democracy.

Following a call launched by around 200 Hungarian associations and organisations under the banner #Civilvagyok , the European Civic Forum and Civil Society Europe called upon all active citizens, civic movements, volunteers who firmly defend the values of solidarity, democracy and equality, to demonstrate in front of their respective Hungarian embassies. The message was sent to Viktor Orban and wannabe leaders that NGOs and citizens will not disappear from the public sphere and will continue their work towards a more democratic European society, whatever their conditions are.

Below are some of the mobilisations that occured throughout Europe on 13 June, a few minutes before the law was passed. You can also find the full page dedicated to this mobilisation.

From France to Serbia, via Poland and Belgium, activists and ordinary citizens came out to show their solidarity with Hungarian NGOs. Their calls were notably supported by some MEPs and by the European Economic and Social Committee. Yet, even though the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe warned about the danger of such a law, no official measure was undertaken by the European Union against a Member State openly violating EU fundamental values.