“Stop Soros” bill main points

February 14, 2018

“Soros would resettle millions from Africa and the Middle-East in Hungary” government propaganda billboard in Budapest. | Photo: Budapest Beacon/Balázs Pivarnyik

Here’s what you need to know about the government’s “Stop Soros” package of bills.

There are three bills in the package:

  • one concerns the licensing of these organizations;
  • the second concerns the special tax on foreign income,
  • the third concerns the restraining order banning access to areas near the border or the whole territory of the country.

Licensing would be required for all organizations dealing with refugees, but the special 25 percent tax on foreign income would only apply to the organizations that receive foreign funding for this purpose.

A big change between this and the previous version is that the government has changed its position from expecting organizations to voluntarily register to now requiring them to obtain a special license from the minister of the interior. The previous version also had a clause that would have stripped certain organizations of their public benefit status, but that has also been dropped. The current version includes provisions allowing the courts the right to formally dissolve organizations that don’t operate with this special license.

In other words, the risk of dissolution remains.

Who does the bill target?

Pretty much any organization dealing with refugees.

Any association or foundation registered in Hungary which, in the interest of providing international protection, supports or sponsors the entry and stay in Hungary of a third-country national having entered Hungary through a safe third country.

What activities does this constitute?

Pretty much anything remotely connected to refugees and asylum-seekers.

The provisions of the so-called “anti-Soros” bill would pertain to any organization that sponsors, organizes or otherwise supports the entry and stay in Hungary of a third-party national in the interest of providing international protection through

  • advocacy, campaigning, or the organizing of such activities,
  • attempting to influence the legal practices of authorities and courts,
  • monitoring or organizing the monitoring of Hungary’s borders,
  • the preparation of or organizing the preparation of information materials
  • building networks and/or organizing volunteers,
  • that receives directly, or indirectly, funding or other material support from foreign sources, or extends financial or other material support,

What else is in the law?

The interior minister will license organizations that conduct such activities only if the organization(s) poses no risk to national security. The minister will also investigate whether the organization(s) receives funding or other material support from foreign sources. During this process, the minister can utilize the services of Hungary’s tax authority “to supervise the use of funds” by such organization(s). Data collected by the tax authority will be sent to the interior minister.

The interior minister will use the state security services to determine whether the organization(s) poses a national security risk. Any data obtained through this process can be shared with other state organs.

How do such organizations go about obtaining a permit?

A legal representative of the organization must apply for a license to the interior minister. The interior minister has 180 days to review the application — which can be extended by an additional 90 days if need be. The information that the application must contain, and the deadline for processing it, is to be determined by government decree at a later time.

If the license application of the organization(s) is denied by the minister, the organization(s) cannot submit another one for another year.

Organizations have 8 days to challenge any perceived procedural errors  in the interior minister’s decision-making procedure in the government administrative court. If the court rules in favor of the organization, the minister must restart the procedure.

If the organization(s) operates without the proper license, Hungary’s prosecution service can request that the tax authority conduct an audit, results of which shall be made available to the prosecution service. If, based on the results of this audit, the prosecution service concludes that the organization(s) operated without the necessary permits, it can demand that within 15 days the organization(s) cease operations and can request that the tax authority suspend the organization’s(s) tax ID number.

If the organization(s) does not meet the demands of the prosecution service, the organization can be fined twice the highest limit allowed under the 2017 law on foreign-funded organizations, that is HUF 1,800,000 (USD 7,200).

If after being fined the organization(s) does not comply with the order of the prosecution service, the prosecution service will petition the court to dissolve the organization(s). If the court dissolves the organization(s), the organization(s) must provide the tax authority with data about financial or material support it has received from foreign sources.

A simple majority, which the Fidesz-KDNP political alliance commands, is sufficient to pass most of the bill’s provisions.  However, the part pertaining to national security requires a two-thirds parliamentary majority, as the laws on national security services need to be amended to include the new roles for the services in the licensing procedure.

UPDATE: The Hungarian Helsinki Committee published its own FULL TRANSLATION of the “Stop Soros” bill on Thursday.