Hungarian NGOs have raised concerns over the government’s proposal to introduce legislation that would require NGOs in the country that receive more than 24,000 EUR in foreign funding to register as foreign funded organisations.

 

The Hungarian draft law on the ‘transparency of organisations supported from abroad’ was submitted to the Hungarian Parliament on 7 April. It will apply to Hungarian associations and foundations that receive more than this amount in a given tax year in financial support from abroad.

 

NGOs will also have to declare that they are supported from abroad, publish this status on their website, and declare the donations received and who they are from, or face a fine of up to 900,000 HUF (2,900 EUR).

 

Hungarian NGOs have published an initial analysis of the draft law, outlining potential conflicts with European and International Fundamental principles. According to this document, there has been no public consultation about the Bill, nor any risk assessment. It also states that by compelling NGOs to publicly state that they receive foreign funding, the law will negatively affect their reputation by making it appear that any views or opinions expressed serve the interests of those other than Hungarian society.

 

Other concerns raised include the suggested fines, and the Bill’s violation of the rights to data protection and privacy through obliging NGOs to submit the name, country and city of each foreign donor, even if they are private individuals.

 

If enacted, it is feared that the law will depress investment from both international and local philanthropic organisations, and starve NGOs of resources necessary to provide key services and meet basic human needs.

 

In response, the European Foundation Centre has joined major philanthropic organisations from across Europe and the United States in issuing a statement in support of Hungarian civil society. The statement outlines the philanthropy sector’s concerns regarding the effect the Hungarian government’s position is having on the NGO sector.

 

It states that some of the proposals “would have the effect of discriminating against certain organizations and stigmatizing those that operate at world-class levels and are able to attract financial support from private foundations in Europe and globally.”

 

It also calls for the Hungarian government to “honour the country’s and Europe’s commitment to the freedom of its citizens to form organizations, debate the issues of the day, and seek financial support from all legitimate sources”.