We call on the European Parliament to adopt a resolution, following its debate on the situation in Hungary 26th April, urging the Hungarian government to withdraw its proposed foreign agents law.
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Prime Minister Orbán of Hungary has spent the last seven years taking democracy apart piece by piece. He has taken over public media and silenced criticism from almost all major private media companies with the threat of fines, punitive taxes or through closure. He has protected his government from the courts by pushing through a new Constitution, packed the Constitutional Court with his political allies, and taken away some of its biggest powers. And all the while he has continued to line the pockets of his friends at the top of Hungary’s business world through a deeply corrupt political system. In his latest move, Orbán has strangled academic freedom by passing a law to force the closure of the Central European University (CEU), one of the country’s best educational establishments. The threatened closure has brought out tens of thousands of protesters.
Orbán is hoping that while the world is focused on the CEU, no one will notice his move to kill off pro‐democracy NGOs in Hungary.
Now he is turning on the only voices left to stand up against corruption, environmental destruction and to fight for the rights of all Hungarians: a handful of investigative journalists and human rights activists. He is angry. So few people voted in his referendum last year asking Hungarians to reject an EU quota of 1,300 refugees that the final result was invalid. And after spending a reported EUR 30 million on his anti‐refugee hate campaign, you can understand why. Orbán partly blames human rights activists for his defeat. They argued that the referendum was a farce, because under international law, all countries have a legal obligation to assist refugees. Orbán is also irritated by environmental NGOs who are asking questions about his new Putin‐financed and built nuclear power station as well as investigative journalists and anti‐corruption NGOs who keep exposing theft of public money.
Under a proposed new law, any NGO getting more than EUR 23,300 per year in donations from outside Hungary would have to publicly declare itself to be a ‘foreign agent’. This is a carbon copy of Putin’s anti‐NGO law.
If an NGO fails to make this declaration it will face a fine and, ultimately, closure. Orbán’s goal is to stigmatize and discredit the NGOs he doesn’t like in the eyes of the public and, as other members of his government have made clear, force them out of their own country. The same tactic has been used in Russia. As suspicion from the public and harassment from the authorities mounts, we face the very real prospect that Hungary’s last remaining pro‐democracy organisations will close.
If the European Parliament wishes to protect the EU’s fundamental values, it must make clear that this Russian‐style anti‐democratic law has no place in the EU. We urge you to protect the last line of defense for Hungarian democracy.