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PACE calls on Hungary to stop work on NGO funding and university laws

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) has called on Hungary to suspend the parliamentary debate on the draft law on the “Transparency of Organisations receiving Foreign Funding” and the implementation of the Act amending the National Higher Education Act, pending the opinion of experts from the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission.

Approving a resolution based on a report by Mogens Jensen (Denmark, SOC), the Assembly also called on the Hungarian authorities to engage in “open dialogue” with civil society, as well as the Council of Europe and other international organisations, on the two laws.

As regards the NGO law, PACE said it was concerned about the lack of internal public consultation on the draft, the gravity of the sanctions – including the possibility that an NGO could be shut down for non-compliance – and its scope of application, which excludes some NGO such as sports and religious organisations.

“The Assembly agrees that NGOs must be transparent about their sources of funds, but cannot accept the allegation that civil society organisations serve foreign interest groups, rather than the public interest, and may endanger the national security and sovereignty of a country simply because they receive foreign funding over a certain yearly threshold,” the Assembly said.

It also regretted the “overall accusatory and labelling rhetoric by Hungarian public officials” surrounding the drawing up and discussion of the draft law.

“A dynamic civil society is a cornerstone of any democratic society,” pointed out Mr Jensen. “Today we can effectively and constructively offer our expertise to improve the draft before it is too late.”