By- Azra Rizvi
The European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that Hungary broke European law by restricting foreign funding of civil society organisations and said that the restrictions imposed on NGOs and donors were “discriminatory and unjustified.”
However, Hungary argues that it is countering money-laundering and boosting transparency.
According to the 2017 Hungarian Law, NGOs are supposed to register themselves as with the Hungarian courts as “an organization in receipt of support from abroad” when donations sent to them from the other EU Member States exceeded a certain limit.
The organisations are required to publish this information and also mention the names of the donors whose support reached or exceed HUF 500,000, thereby releasing donors’ names on a freely accessible public electronic platform.
Hence the Transparency Law revealed information publically and prevented organizations from providing support. The law which required registration, declaration, publication and penalties restricted the free movement of capital.
The court observed that the Hungarian Transparency Law restricted the right to freedom of association. The law also violated the right to respect for private and family life and it did not justify any of Hungary’s general interest objectives.
“Hungary’s restrictions on the funding of civil organisations by persons established outside that member state do not comply with the Union law,” the ECJ said in a statement on Thursday. It also said that “the measures which it lays down are such as to create a climate of distrust with regard to those associations and foundations.”
The ECJ concluded that “the restrictions stemming from the Transparency Law were not justified and therefore that Hungary had failed to fulfil its obligations under Article 63 TFEU.”
The Prime Minister of Hungary Viktor Orban’s conservative government had passed the law in 2017. According to the critics of Mr. Orban, the law was intended to silence opposition.
The Hungarian Prime Minister has for a long time been in a feud with the Hungarian-American billionaire philanthropist George Soros and has accused NGOs funded by Mr. Soros of interfering in domestic politics.