Hungary to submit new NGO law to parliament next week: sources

BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Hungary’s government plans to submit a law on the way non-governmental organizations operate next week, two sources with knowledge of the matter told Reuters on Thursday, raising concerns about a crackdown on dissenting groups.

Visegrad Group (V4) member nation Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban stands after a news conference during a summit in Warsaw, Poland March 2, 2017. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel

The right-wing government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban has often expressed scepticism about some NGOs, and a vice chairman of his Fidesz party earlier this year said some foreign-funded NGOs should be “swept out” of the country.

That has rekindled fears of a renewed crackdown after some groups were subjected to police and tax investigations in recent years.

One of the sources, both of whom spoke on condition of anonymity, said the bill has been the subject of preliminary discussion since Tuesday and will be submitted to parliament next week.

The Hungarian Civil Liberties Union (HCLU) said Justice Minister Laszlo Trocsanyi had previously announced the new rules were not too restrictive and that NGOs already disclosed most information the government could demand.

HCLU quoted Trocsanyi as saying last month: “There is nothing to worry about in terms of the future of NGOs. The bill we are preparing is only about registering with the courts how much money these organizations receive from abroad.”

“From what they have said so far this law will not prescribe anything we don’t already do,” HCLU Chairwoman Stefania Kapronczay said. “We list in our annual reports all the details: Who gives us how much, what we spend it on, what the senior employees’ remuneration is.”

But critics fear the move will go further and copy the severe restrictions on foreign-funded NGOs imposed in Russia. Orban’s government has denied accusations it plans a similar move as a way of suppressing dissent, for example on human rights matters.

The HCLU had requested a consultation with the government before the bill is issued, but Kapronczay told Reuters this now looked unlikely.

Government spokesman Zoltan Kovacs declined to comment.

Editing by Robin Pomeroy