Norwegian Civil Fund administrators to Janos Lazar: We are not a “useless group of partisan tricksters”

May 8, 2014

okotars

“Representatives of the Hungarian government’s various ministries who serve on the decision-making committees of the Norwegian Civil Fund as observers have praised the high level of professionalism and unprejudiced manner of the decision-making process”.  

The heads of four grant making foundations have sent a letter to Janos Lazar, Secretary of State for the Office of the Prime Minister, categorically rejecting disparaging remarks made by Deputy Secretary of State Nandor Csepreghy to the Hungarian press.

In mid April Lazar accused the Norwegian Civil Fund of interfering in Hungary’s internal affairs by allegedly funding organizations with close ties to liberal party Politics Can Be Different (LMP).  In an exclusive interview Ökotárs CEO Veronika Vera told the Budapest Beacon “(t)his is all about Fidesz wanting exclusive authority to decide who gets how much”.

On April 30 Deputy Secretary of State Nandor Csepreghy was quoted by the Hungarian press as saying that Norwegian Civil Fund’s Hungarian administrators were a “useless group of partisan tricksters”.

In their letter of May 7 the heads of the four grant making foundations highlight their positive relationship with the Hungarian government in recent years and their willingness to involve it in their efforts to strengthen Hungary’s civil society. The letter concludes by inviting Lazar to personally visit with the foundations to better understand how they operate – an experience that might help the government learn how to effectively administer funds through its own grant-making institutions.  The letter also asks that Csepreghy retract his insulting statement.

In a letter addressed to Janos Lazar dated April 24 the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs rejected his accusations as “surprising” and invalid.

Budapest, May 7 2014

Honorable State Secretary:

It was with great consternation that we read Deputy State Secretary Nandor Csepreghy’s statement to the press on April 30 in which he refers to our foundations, the administrators of funds provided by the Norway Civil Fund (NCTA), as a “useless group of partisan tricksters”. We consider these accusations to be unacceptable, especially coming from a representative of the government, as they insult the good reputation of our organizations, and firmly reject them.

We would like to remind the State Secretary that the Okotars Foundation-led consortium’s activities are not limited to the administration of the Norway Civil Fund. There are numerous other programs we are engaged in and these programs are in accordance with the achieving of our goals as prescribed by the Basic Law: to further develop and strengthen the Hungarian civil sector. Over the years, these programs have produced a fruitful collaboration with government actors as well.

  • Such programs include, among others, the Swiss-Hungarian Cooperation Program for Civil Society and Scholarship Fund. The Hungarian government, through its representatives from the Ministry of Human Resources, the Ministry for National Development, and the Ministry of Rural Development, has been and continues to participate in grant-deciding committee’s work. The Szechenyi Program Office, an institution which belongs to the Office of the Prime Minister, also participates by supervision and further development of the program. The Szechenyi Program Office’s continued consent and continued collaboration has decidedly approved of our consortium’s work regarding the preparation and administration of the funds. (By the way representatives of the Hungarian government’s various ministries who serve as observers on the decision-making committees of Norway Civil Fund have praised the high level of professionalism and unprejudiced manner of the decision-making process).
  • Since 2010, the Okotars Foundation has actively and constructively participated in the preparation and raising of public awareness with respect to Hungary’s new Civil Code. In late 2010 we organized an international conference at the Parliamentary Representatives Office Building. Deputy State Secretary Dr. Csaba Latorcai also participated in this event with a presentation, and was subsequently invited by the president of the Okotars Foundation to participate in the various workgroups established to help prepare Hungary’s new civil code. The supporting documentation and recommendations we produced received numerous points of positive feedback from the ministry.
  • Zsuzsa Foltanyi, the Okotars Foundation’s first president and member of the board, even received an award from the Hungarian government in 2012 for her work in providing assistance to civil sector organizations engaged in environmental protection. The “For our Environment Award” was awarded by State Secretary Dr. Zoltan Illes.
  • The Autonomy Foundation’s work and experience in the field of Roma integration has provided support for the activities of numerous state institutions, such as the National Employment Public Foundation, the Social Policy and Employment Affairs Institute. A number of the Hungarian government’s ministries responsible for planning the administration of EU fiscal transfers have also relied on the Autonomy Foundation’s work, one such example would be the program regarding community exclusion and integration of those living in extreme poverty which ran from 2010 to 2014, in which members of the foundation served as professional advisors to the government.
  • At the request of the Ministry of the National Economy, the Carpathia Foundation’s president currently also serves (without compensation) as an expert by assisting in the development and preparation of tender documents for the EGT and Norway Cultural Funds encouraging artistic diversity within programs related to the preservation of European culture and traditions.
  • The Foundation for the Advancement of Democratic Rights is an active participant in the development and strategic planning of Hungary’s international development policies. The foundation provides professional assistance to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in addition to the National Assembly’s Committee on Foreign Affairs, and its individual members. In harmony with the government’s goals, the foundation finds it especially important to raise Hungary’s public awareness, support of- and experience in the sharing of global responsibility by presenting the experiences Hungary has undergone in its own transition.

Nandor Csepreghy’s statements have been made in complete disregard of the aforementioned work and have added insult to injury not only to us, but also to Hungary’s civil society organizations who have worked so selflessly for the betterment and in the interest of the Hungarian public. For this reason we implore the State Secretary to demand that the Deputy State Secretary retract the statements he made!

In the meantime, and in the spirit of continuing our constructive and collaborative partnership, we happily invite the State Secretary to visit us personally so that we may show him the details regarding how the Norway Civil Fund operates, its experiences and the results it has achieved, so that the shared knowledge may contribute to the better operating of other fund-distribution systems and related institutions.

With Regards,

Veronika Mora

President, Okotars Foundation

 

Andras Nun

President, Autonomy Foundation

 

Barbara Eros,

President, Foundation for the Advancement of Democratic Rights

 

Bokglarka Bata

President, Carpathia Foundation Hungary