Picnic to be held in front of Parliament in opposition to NGO law

May 29, 2017

Aerial photo of the first Heroes’ Veto demonstration in Budapest, which drew tens of thousands.

A picnic has been organized for Monday at 5 pm in Kossuth Square against adoption of the government’s bill on NGOs. The picnic – called “Heroes’ Veto II – Everyone is civil” – is organized by the Civilizáció group and will be attended by more than 50 civil organizations that operate in Hungary. The groups plan to demonstrate the societal importance of their work at the picnic, and have requested that no party emblems, banners or advertisements be displayed at the event.

“We help thousands of students, teachers, pupils coming from bad social backgrounds, families with housing difficulties, refugees, people who work in health or social services, nurses, municipality workers, artists and journalists,” reads a statement on the event’s Facebook page. “We support sick people, pensioners, and help those who are affected by chemicals that destroy their health. We run help lines, offer volunteering opportunities, train young professionals. We give refuge and provide legal advice to harassed women and children, people in need and people without shelter. On 29 May we will show how many people we help a year.”

The event is the second organized recently by Civilizáció in opposition to the NGO bill tabled by Fidesz in the National Assembly. The first demonstration, called Heroes’ Veto, drew tens of thousands to Heroes’ Square in Budapest in April to protest in solidarity with Hungary’s embattled civil organizations.

The so-called NGO law, which is set for a vote on June 13 in the National Assembly, would require NGOs that receive more than HUF 7.2 million annually from foreign sources to register themselves with the government as “foreign-funded organizations,” something critics, including UN special rapporteurs, have argued is an attempt to stigmatize the organizations.

The Venice Commission, an advisory body of the Council of Europe also known as the European Commission for Democracy Through Law, is examining the bill and is set to make a determination on its legality by the beginning of June.

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) in April called on Hungary to suspend parliamentary debate on the NGO law, and urged Hungarian authorities to engage in “open dialogue” with civil society, the Council of Europe, and other international organizations regarding the proposed law.