Hungary: Landmark judgment rejects stigmatization of NGOs

Responding to a decision by the European Union’s highest court that Hungary’s 2017 “foreign funding” law violates EU law, Amnesty Hungary’s Director Dávid Vig said:

“Today’s landmark decision deals a blow to the Hungarian authorities’ efforts to stigmatize and undermine civil society organizations who criticize government policy.

Today’s landmark decision deals a blow to the Hungarian authorities’ efforts to stigmatize and undermine civil society organizations who criticize government policy
David Vig, Amnesty International

“The law requiring NGOs to label themselves as foreign-funded was never really about fighting money laundering and international terrorism, as the Hungarian government claimed. Instead it is a blatant attempt to muzzle critical voices and chip away at public support for organizations fighting for human rights, justice and equality.

“It is vital that the Hungarian Constitutional Court now acts quickly to resume its review of this repressive law, which should be annulled as soon as possible.”

BACKGROUND

The Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) declared that Hungary’s “foreign funding” legislation is in clear breach of EU law in imposing discriminatory and unjustified restrictions on the financing of civil organisations by persons established outside the country, contrary to free movement of capital. Moreover, the CJEU ruled that these restrictions violate the right to freedom of association, the rights to respect for private and family life and to the protection of personal data.

The Law on the transparency of organizations funded from abroad has forced NGOs receiving more than EUR 20,815 direct or indirect funding from abroad to re-register as “organization funded from abroad” and to put this label on every publication and on their website.

Twenty-three civil society organizations that are directly impacted by the law – among them Amnesty International Hungary – have turned to the Hungarian Constitutional Court requesting a review. The Court, however, has suspended its procedure pending the judgment of the CJEU.

The CJEU’s decision concludes the infringement procedure launched by the European Commission in the summer of 2017, referring Hungary to the CJEU in December 2017. The 23 NGOs also filed a case with the European Court of Human Rights, which to date remains pending.