ALDE expresses concern about continuing threats to democracy in Hungary
On Tuesday 13 June Hungary passed a law that will force NGOs receiving more than 24,000 euros direct or indirect funding from outside Hungary to re-register as a “civic organisation funded from abroad.” The law is seen as a thinly veiled attempt to silence government-critical NGOs.
Liberalisok, ALDE Party member party in Hungary, voted against the law in the Hungarian Parliament and say that instead of pursuing financial transparency this will “stigmatise and disrupt the activities of civil organisations” and that “Orbán is the best European pupil of Russian President Vladimir Putin.” Since 2012, a similar law has operated in Russia that has lead to the reputation of hundreds of civil society and international organisations being tarnished by being labelled as ‘foreign agents’, the ability of NGO staff to work without harassment restricted, and many organisations having to shut down as a result. You can read Liberalisok’s press statement here.
After recently passing a law aimed to restrict academic freedom and the activities of the Central European University, ALDE again condemn this move and the continuing deconstruction of democracy and rule of law in Hungary under Viktor Orbán. In a resolution adopted at the recent ALDE Party Council meeting in Ljubljana, Slovenia, we called on the government to retract this law targeting NGOs and call on the EPP to expel Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz party from its membership. You can read the resolution here.
The ALDE Group in the European Parliament has also issued a statement on the issue and proposes a plenary debate in the European Parliament in July on the matter.
Guy Verhofstadt, leader of the ALDE Group in the European Parliament, commented: “The attempts by some EU Governments to silence NGOs are shameful and contrary to the values of the European Union. Freedom of assembly and freedom of speech are key corner stones of a pluralistic society. The European Commission should step in and do more to support NGOs inside the EU who face censorship.”
ALDE Group Vice President Sophie in ’t Veld said: “An active and well developed civil society is a pre-condition for a healthy democracy; it is part of essential checks and balances. The EU aims to further civil society both inside and outside the EU. However, within the EU, the space for civil society is being reduced, as governments are making it hard for NGOs – in particular government-critical ones – to operate nationally.”
“As Member States are component parts of the EU decision making structures, it is essential that they fully comply with EU standards on democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights in order for the EU as a whole to be compliant”
“Measures including budget cuts, legislation targeting foreign-funded organisations, tighter rules for the registration of NGOs, restrictions on freedom of assembly and freedom of expression, result in a shrinking space for civil society and they undermine democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights in the EU as a whole. “
The ALDE Group urges all member states to ensure that civil society can operate freely and to lift all unnecessary restrictions. ALDE equally calls on the Commission to ensure full space for civil society throughout the territory of the European Union. In addition, the ALDE group will propose the creation of an EU fund for furthering civil society in the EU, analogous to the Endowment for Democracy for countries outside the EU.