In parallel with strengthening its control of the media, judiciary and business, the government of Viktor Orbán is increasing its pressure on civil society. The apparent purpose is to suppress independent activity and extinguish any voices it deems critical of the government.
On September 8, as part of the escalating campaign against Hungarian NGOs, the police raided the offices of Ökotárs and DemNet foundations and the houses of their employees, confiscating computers and documents. On Thursday, September 19, the tax number of the Carpathian Foundation was suspended by the Hungarian Tax and Financial Control Administration. The three foundations are members of the consortium responsible for distributing funds from the EEA Financial Mechanisms to Hungarian NGOs, with the aim of strengthening democracy and the rule of law, defending human and civil rights, and increasing transparency and accountability in public life. The fact that the funds are distributed outside the direct control of the Hungarian government, and that the supported organizations are often critical of government actions, lies at the core of the case. In recent days, this has become a demonstration of force against civil society, unprecedented within the borders of the EU.
977 NGOs from 32 countries are addressing an appeal to EU institutions – the European Commission, the European Council and the European Parliament - and the Council of Europe's Commissioner for Human Rights, urging them to stop ignoring the developments in Hungary and stand up to actions aimed at intimidating and silencing civil society in an EU member country.
Signatories of the letter are concerned about the so-far vague EU responses to actions that violate the basic principles on which the Union is founded. They jointly call upon the highest European institutions to take diplomatic and preventative measures, if necessary engaging the procedure provided in the New framework for addressing systemic threats to the rule of law in the EU Member States (see here).
Signatories of the letter express their support and commitment to the Hungarian organizations attacked by the Orbán government, and affirms that they will not be isolated in their struggle to preserve their independence and legitimacy. Their case deserves solidarity and joint action within the NGO sector across Europe, as well as the urgent attention of the European institutions. The appeal in support of Hungarian NGOs has been initiated by the foundations that administer the EEA/Norway Grants in 16 EU countries.