Hungary to withdraw from Open Government Partnership

December 6, 2016

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Following Russia’s lead, Hungary announced its intention today to leave the Open Government Partnership.  The announcement took place only one day before participating countries were scheduled to attend a three-day meeting in Paris, reports index.hu.

According to the decision published in the latest official Hungarian gazette, Hungary’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Péter Szijjártó, was instructed by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán to begin the process of leaving the organization by immediately sending a letter to its steering committee declaring Hungary’s intention to rescind the 2012 decision to join.

Founded in 2011 by eight countries, including the United States, Great Britain, Norway, and Brazil, the declared purpose of the Open Government Partnership is to combat corruption and promote transparency in government.

Membership quickly grew to some 70 countries, including Hungary, which, when joining in 2012, declared that:

“Our goal is the creation of government and public administration that is transparent and open and which handles national assets and public money responsibly in an accountable manner.  Since the active participation of society in the preparation and implementation of decisions is a basic condition for good and open governance, we shall endeavor to involve society and civil organizations as much as possible in the development of an action plan and thereafter.”

Asked by a daily online to comment, a government spokesperson issued the following statement on behalf of Minister Szijjártó:

“Instead of discussing good governance practices the Open Government Partnership has become a place where certain countries lecture others and where genuine dialogue does not take place, facts are misrepresented, and one-sided reports are prepared. The reports feature the opinions of so-called civil organizations that continually judge our country, while it neglected the government’s response.  There is no point to maintaining our membership in such an organization which has completely drifted away from the objectives set out at the time of its founding. Today Péter Szijjártó informed the Open Government Partnership’s steering committee of the government’s decision.”

According to index.hu, the letter sent by Szijjártó to the steering committee contained the following language:

“Since joining the Hungarian government has actively participated in OGP and has implemented action plans in accordance with expectations, and for this reason rejects the findings appearing in the OGP report.”

According to the online daily, the report in question called attention to the dismantling of checks and balances, declining transparency, and mounting threats to press freedom taking place in Hungary under the Orbán government.

Reacting to the government’s announcement, the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union (TASZ) wrote on its Facebook page that a procedure initiated against Hungary this summer could very well have resulted in the suspension of the country’s membership in the organization, and that a desire to preclude this was behind the government’s decision to withdraw.

To date the organization has suspended the membership of just two members: Azerbaijan and Turkey.  Russia withdrew from the organization earlier this year when it, too, became the subject of a procedure along with Hungary.