NGO umbrella group does not support Momentum’s campaign for referendum on NGO law

November 15, 2017

European Commission goes forward with infringement proceeding for the NGO law
Photo:árton Magócsi

Civilizáció, an umbrella organization for Hungarian NGOs, has announced that it will not be taking part in Momentum Movement’s push for a referendum to rescind the government’s NGO-stigmatizing bill adopted in June.

The announcement should come as no surprise because many NGOs are public benefit organizations prohibited from involving themselves in party politics. However, the NGOs have another reason for wishing to stay out of the campaign.

While Civilizáció “welcomes” Momentum’s position on the NGO law, the umbrella organization argues that rather than pushing for a referendum, the NGO-stigmatizing law should be struck down by the Constitutional Court as unconstitutional.

“Regardless of whether or not the majority supports this law, it is still unlawful,” Civilizáció’s statement reads. “Therefore, it remains unacceptable. You should not be able to hold referendums on the violation of constitutionally-guaranteed rights in a constitutional democracy. For instance, if one was to propose a referendum on introducing slavery, and assuming the majority supports this, the National Assembly would be obliged to adopt such legislation — but this would violate fundamental rights, just as the NGO-stigmatizing bill does.”

The statement goes on to say that Civilizáció agrees with Momentum that the law must be rescinded, but the NGOs have instead opted to pursue their own legal avenues, “using their own tools to fight against the NGO-stigmatizing bill, while also continuing their work.”

“Civil organizations must focus on their clients who they represent and assist. Taking part in a campaign would primarily put at risk those who rely on these organizations’ work to provide them their only chance in dealing with the state’s failures. Civil organizations were not created to take part in party politics campaigns, but rather to work towards the public good for society. This is where we must focus our resources — independent of the whims of parties and politics,” the statement concludes.