European Commission goes forward with infringement proceeding on NGO law

October 4, 2017

European Commission goes forward with infringement proceeding for the NGO law
Photo: Abcug.hu/Márton Magócsi

The European Commission has decided to continue with an infringement proceeding it initiated against Hungary in response to its “NGO law”, reports the Communication department of the European Commission.

The infringement proceeding was first launched in July in response to the adoption by the Hungarian Parliament’s ruling Fidesz-KDNP majority of the NGO-stigmatizing law that obliges NGOs that receive funding from abroad to register themselves with a court as “foreign agents”. The Commission sent a letter of formal notice to the government on July 14. Hungary replied to the Commission’s letter on August 14, however, the Commission concluded that their serious concerns had not been addressed.

On Wednesday, the European Commission issued a reasoned opinion – the second step in the infringement procedure. The Commission concluded that the NGO law does not comply with EU law for the following reasons:

  • The law interferes unduly with fundamental rights as enshrined in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, in particular, the right to freedom of association. The new law could prevent NGOs from raising funds and would restrict their ability to carry out their work.
  • The law also introduces unjustified and disproportionate restrictions to the free movement of capital. The new registration, reporting and publicity requirements foreseen by the law are discriminatory and create an administrative and reputational burden for these organizations. These measures may have a dissuasive effect on the funding from abroad and make it difficult for the concerned NGOs to receive it.
  • The law also raises concerns as regards the respect of the right to protection of private life and of personal data. It does not strike a fair balance between transparency interests and the right of donors and beneficiaries to protect their personal data.

Hungary now has one month to take the necessary measures to comply with the reasoned opinion. If Hungary fails to reply satisfactorily to the reasoned opinion, then the Commission may refer the case to the Court of Justice of the EU.