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Roma children receiving aid.
this story is part of the 25-29 Dec 2017 Weekly Hindsight Read the hindsight

Hungary -- no country for NGOs

Ivett Korösi recommended by Ivett Korösi Nepszava, Hungary

For the past 11 years, the organization EEA had been operating flawlessly. Overnight, it became an outcast because it is funded by George Soros, the government's number one enemy.

Hungary Pattern recognition

Why this story matters:

politics, illiberalism

A Hungarian NGO, based in the southern city of Pecs, chose a noble name -- Az Emberseg Erejeval (EEA), which translates to "With the power of humanity". Sadly, these days, their activists have not experienced much humanity.

The organization aims to achieve a democratic society, in which everyone is equal. It advocates for human rights, solidarity, and inclusion. Among many of their initiatives are organized activities for underprivileged Roma children, such as trips to museums or ice skating.

For the past 11 years, the EEA had been operating flawlessly. Then, the government started a campaign against its key enemy, the American-Hungarian billionaire, George Soros, who supports the NGO financially. Overnight, EEA has become an outcast.

EEA is one of several NGOs that receive financial aid from Open Society Foundations (OSF), a grant-making network launched by financier and philanthropist George Soros. The Fidesz-led government has labelled these organizations members of the "Soros Army”, and accused them of disseminating his political agenda.

In June 2017, the parliament passed the notorious Law on the Transparency of Organizations Receiving Foreign Funds (widely known as the “Anti-NGO Law”), which restricts donations from abroad to civil society organizations. It specifically targets those NGOs that receive more than 7.2 million HUF in foreign funding.

The law is commonly believed to be an attempt to fight Soros’ influence in Hungary and follows autocratic Russia’s example of silencing NGOs. In October, the European Commission started an infringement procedure against Hungary, on the grounds that the law “violates the right to freedom of association and the right to protection of private life and personal data”, the press release of the EC reads.

George Soros put up a fight in response. He started his own information campaign to respond to the multiple allegations of the government. On top of that, OSF announced that it would channel extra money to three organizations outside Budapest, including the EEA. This made the government furious.

The witch hunt has no boundaries. Local politicians in Pecs pressured the owner of the apartment, used by EEA as an office, to kick the NGO out. Afterwards, Fidesz proposed a resolution that the local assembly quickly accepted.

"We ask all residents, businesses and organizations of Pecs to deny workspace for EEA -- the headquarters of Soros’s campaign. No one should risk the future of our homeland and our dear city, Pecs,” the resolution states.

This story is reminiscent of a dictatorship, wrote Nepszava’s journalist, Tamas Ungar.

The resolution is without a doubt one of the most alarming official documents in post-Communist Hungary. There is a ray of hope, though. Despite the local government's appeal, many people offered space to the NGO. The power of humanity still exists in Hungary.

Details from the story:

  • The resolution is a violation of basic constitutional rights, such as freedom of speech and freedom of assembly, claims Csaba Csontos, Hungarian spokesperson of the OSF, in a statement. He added that these intimidation tactics reminded him of "the darkest moments in Hungarian history”.
  • OSF is still assessing whether it can take any legal steps.
  • After the resolution was made public, EEA published a statement, in which it called the move unacceptable. „It is based on lies and fake news and tries to manipulate the residents of Pecs," it reads.
  • EEA invited the mayor of Pecs, Zsolt Pava, to their office so he can see what the NGO does and how it helps people in the region. The politician, who is a member of the ruling Fidesz party, denied the offer.
  • On Saturday, hundreds of people demonstrated in solidarity with EEA.

weekly hindsight12-16 Mar 2018

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