Controversial NGO bill enters Hungarian parliament

By bne IntelliNews April 20, 2017

Hungarian MPs began to debate the controversial bill on the transparency of foreign-funded NGOs in parliament on April 19. 

The Fidesz-supported bill recommends that NGOs that receive at least HUF7.2mn (€22,973) annually from abroad must be registered, placed on a state list and declare on all their correspondence that they are foreign funded organisations. Critics have compared the bill to a Russian law that classifies many NGOs as "foreign agents".

The bill is viewed as another strike against US/Hungarian financier George Soros. Earlier this month, the government passed a bill that targets the Soros-founded Central European University. The campaign has brought tens of thousands on to the streets of Budapest to protest in recent weeks.

Nevertheless, the liberal-minded Jewish billionaire remains a major target for Viktor Orban's government, and many right-wing populists across the globe. Budapest's goal is to show that Soros seeks to influence politics through the organisations he funds, Index writes, citing insider sources. 

Several NGOs, including the Civil Liberties Union, Helsinki Committee and Transparency International argue that the bill does not seek transparency, but to stigmatise those recieving funds from outside Hungary.

Akos Hadhazy of the opposition green party LMP likened the proposed law to fixing “yellow stars” to the NGOs. LMP co-president Bernadett Szel said “Russian agents are sitting in parliament. You are the government financed from abroad; politicians financed from abroad.”

Socialist MP Gergely Barandy said that the bill shows the country is moving closer to resembling Putin's dictatorship.

Ruling party Fidesz MP Gergely Gulyas called the reactions of the opposition “hysteria”.

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