In its decision of 18 June, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) echoed Hungarian civil society’s opinion of past years: the law on the transparency of foreign funded organisations (commonly known as the law on NGOs) is stigmatising, harmful and goes against EU law.
According to the CJEU ruling, the restrictions in the law run contrary to the obligations on Member States in respect of the free movement of capital, the right to respect for private and family life, the right to the protection of personal data, the right to freedom of association, and undermines the general confidence in NGOs.
Representatives of the community of civil society organisations united in the Civilizáció campaign welcomed the decision.
They explained its effects on Hungarian civil society during a press conference where Veronika Móra, director of the Hungarian Environmental Partnership Foundation (Ökotárs Alapítvány), Stefánia Kapronczay, managing director of the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union (TASZ) and Márta Pardavi, co-chair of the Hungarian Helsinki Committee (Magyar Helsinki Bizottság) spoke.
Veronika Móra, director of the Hungarian Environmental Partnership Foundation:
“This law only served to bring us together even more, to stand up for ourselves and one another other, share our knowledge and strength to take action against the rights violation targeting NGOs. And together, several hundreds of organisations and many more Hungarian citizens state loud and clear: Hungary needs its civil organistations!”
“Today it has been revealed that no legislation can rule out the innate willingness to help. Civil society is doing its job: they give shelter to homeless people, help the employment of the disabled, teach underprivileged children, build communities, save trees, the soil and the rivers. During the COVID-19 crisis they were among the first to support the people abandoned by the government: they collected and distributed donations, offered legal aid assistance, held informational campaigns and participated in the organisation of digital teaching.”
Stefánia Kapronczay, managing director of the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union:
“The provisions of the law served to create an atmosphere of mistrust toward the concerned NGO-s.
The NGO law is not about the NGOs themselves, but about the thousands of citizens we represent and whose voices can only be heard through us.
It is about the citizens that criticize those exercising power, which explains why those in power have recently been replying with personal attacks instead of substantial answers.
The transparency of NGOs had been adequately regulated even before the anti-NGO law: many organisations not only met but, exceeded regulations by reporting on their finances on their websites in a more publicly accessible and easy-to-understand manner than is required.”
Márta Pardavi, co-chair of the Hungarian Helsinki Committee:
“A strong civil society is one of the important pillars of a democracy and in Europe, there is no room for the stigmatisation of NGO-s and their supporters.
There is no place in the European Union for laws that, based on the Russian model, stigmatise such organisations based on their resources.
Patrons can support social issues from beyond borders, this is a means for expressing their opinions.
Today’s decision was important not only for Hungary: the Polish government, who had been considering a similarly stigmatising act, will not be able to discriminate against civil organisations based on their backers either.”
Based on the Court’s decision, the Hungarian government must now initiate the repealing of the NGO law.
With this the government is given another chance to realize and recognize the everyday hard work of the NGOs that is done in order to make the world and Hungary a more liveable place.
Supporting NGOs equals helping those in need, nurturing our communities, protecting the environment and our rights.
These causes are important to all of us.