New Hungarian Law to Require NGOs to Disclose Foreign Funding Sources

Lawmakers from Hungary's governing Fidesz party likely will submit new legislation regulating nongovernmental organizations in the next two weeks, the Associated Press reports.

The law, which would require "agent organizations" seeking to influence Hungarian politics to reveal all sources of foreign funding, is widely viewed as targeting groups backed by the Open Society Foundations and its founder, Hungarian-born U.S. financier George Soros. Some of those organizations, including the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union and the Hungarian Helsinki Committee, offer legal aid and other services to migrants and refugees, populations the Hungarian government is working to keep out of the country. In January, Szilard Nemeth, a vice president of Fidesz, said Hungary would use "all the tools at its disposal" to "sweep out" NGOs funded by Soros, which "serve global capitalists and back political correctness over national governments." Transparency International, another of the targeted organizations, said the law was meant to "stigmatize" civic groups as foreign agents.

Fidesz spokesperson Janos Halasz told the AP the legislation was certain to be approved and could go into effect before the end of parliament's spring session, scheduled to end in mid-June.

An OSF representative told the AP Soros and the foundation "are becoming convenient scapegoats" for politicians across the region. "In Romania, our foundation is labeled as pro-Hungarian and undermining Romanian statehood," said Goran Buldioski, director of the Open Society Initiative for Europe. "In Hungary, the government says we work against Hungary. In many ways, all these arguments do not add up."

Soros said in a statement that his motivation for supporting civic groups was the same as during the communist era, which ended in Hungary in 1990. "Their goal is to hold governments accountable to their people, the majority of whom are motivated by the same impulse that led to the fall of the Berlin Wall — the desire for freedom."