May 14, 2018 / 11:50 AM / 8 days ago

Emboldened by election victory, Hungary govt to tighten NGO bill

BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Hungary will tighten a bill that aims to closely regulate non-governmental organisations (NGOs) following the ruling party’s big election victory last month, a minister said on Monday, in a move likely to dismay the European Union and rights groups.

The bill has been nicknamed “Stop Soros” as it targets NGOs that receive foreign funding, notably those financed by liberal billionaire philanthropist George Soros, whom Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban accuses of political meddling and actively supporting mass immigration into Europe.

The bill would allow the interior minister to ban any NGOs active in the immigration field deemed to pose a “national security risk”. It would also slap a 25 percent tax on foreign donations to NGOs that back migration.

Antal Rogan, the minister for Orban’s cabinet office, said the ruling right-wing Fidesz party’s landslide re-election had given it a strengthened mandate to get tough with NGOs it saw as harmful to national interests.

“We need a tighter proposal than the one currently in front of parliament,” Antal Rogan, the minister for Orban’s cabinet office, told a parliamentary hearing. He did not provide any details.

The original bill was submitted to parliament before the April election, when Orban’s party won a third consecutive four-year term with about two thirds of the seats in parliament.

The EU’s executive Commission has said it will take Hungary to court over the ‘Stop Soros’ bill and a higher education law that targets a university founded by Soros.

The United Nations has said the bill represents an “assault on human rights” and has urged the Orban government to protect the right of freedom of association.

Orban used Soros as a scapegoat in the election campaign, accusing the Hungarian-born philanthropist of seeking to undermine the cultural and ethnic makeup of Europe. Soros denies the charge.

Rogan said Budapest considered its sovereignty paramount and that included the immigration issue.

“We will enhance and clarify the bill so that it stops any kind of activity that would bypass Hungary’s laws, violate national security and bring illegal migrants into the country,” Rogan said.

“There is a plethora of ways in which foreign-funded organisations that enjoy no popular support in Hungary operate, including ways in which they bypass Hungary’s laws,” he added.

Rogan said he expected the issue also to dominate the election campaign for the European Parliament next year.

Reporting by Marton Dunai; Editing by Gareth Jones

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