NGO law goes before Constitutional Court but decision only expected next May

August 31, 2017

A formal legal complaint has been drafted against a controversial law on NGOs by lawyers with the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union (TASZ) and the Hungarian Helsinki Committee. Twenty-three civil organizations affected by the legislation will submit the complaint to the Constitutional Court for review.

The Hungarian Helsinki Committee, a human rights organization that has refused to comply with the NGO law, wrote on their website that “in current Hungarian political life, the ‘foreign-funded’ marker is only good for undermining the credibility of the organizations and the public’s trust in them…Additionally, the regulation is discriminatory since it doesn’t require that certain civil organizations like sports or religious organizations fulfill the requirements…because of foreign funding.”

Now that the complaint has been lodged with the Constitutional Court, the organizations will likely have to wait until May 2018 for the court to consider the law’s constitutionality, after general elections in Spring. The NGOs are obliged to report on the previous year’s financial support once a year in May, and only then will the court be able to make a decision on whether the requirements are lawful.

The Helsinki Committee is not the only organization to boycott the law: TASZ, the Ökotárs Foundation and Amnesty International are among some 200 NGOs that have refused to comply with the provisions of the law. As we reported at the end of August, only 32 organizations have registered themselves as foreign-funded. 

The so-called NGO Law was passed in June by the Fidesz-KDNP coalition and requires all civil organizations that receive more than HUF 7.2 million annually from foreign sources to register themselves with the government as “foreign-funded organizations.” Critics, including all of Hungary’s opposition parties, argue that the law is merely meant to stigmatize NGOs that do work the government opposes.