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Open Society Welcomes Court of Justice of EU Ruling on Hungary Anti-NGO Law

BRUSSELS—The Open Society Foundations welcome today’s ruling from the Court of Justice of the European Union that a 2017 Hungarian law targeting independent NGOs is a breach of European law and must be repealed.

The Court ruled that Hungary’s Law on the Transparency of Organizations Receiving Foreign Funding violates both free movement of capital and fundamental rights, including the right to free association as well as the right to protection of private life and personal data. 

Patrick Gaspard, president of the Open Society Foundations, welcomed the court’s decision, adding:

“This ruling will resonate throughout the European Union as an affirmation that civic engagement is a vital pillar of its democratic values. For Hungary, repealing the law would mark a welcome step towards restoring both the rule of law and pluralism in public life.”

In 2017, Hungary’s governing majority passed a law requiring NGOs that receive more than HUF 7.2 million (about €21,000) annually from foreign sources to register as organizations “receiving support from abroad.”

The law also requires affected NGOs to indicate this label in all their publications and on their websites, and to declare the names of donors giving more than around €1,500. 

The European Commission subsequently advised Hungary that the law was in breach of the EU’s founding treaty and other laws, and brought the case before the Court of Justice of the European Union when Hungary refused to repeal the legislation.

The NGO funding law was part of a public campaign by the Hungarian government of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán that targeted both European Union migration policy as well as independent organizations supported by the Open Society Foundations and other donors. 

Two further laws—dubbed the “Stop Soros Package” by the government—were passed the following year, one of them criminalizing individuals and human rights organizations providing legal assistance to migrants, and the other imposing a special tax on related funding.

The European Commission has also challenged the criminalization law before the court, and the case is pending.

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