EU top court strikes down Hungarian NGO law

In its decision today the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) echoes the Hungarian civil society’s opinion of past years: the law on the transparency of foreign-funded organisations (commonly known as the law on NGOs) is stigmatising, harmful and goes against EU law. According to the CJEU ruling, the restrictions in the law run contrary to the obligations on Member States in respect of the free movement of capital, the right to respect for private and family life, the right to the protection of personal data, the right to freedom of association, and undermines the general confidence in NGO-s.


Representatives of the community of civil society organisations united in the Civilizáció campaign welcomed the decision. They explained its effects on Hungarian civil society during a press conference where Veronika Móra, director of the Hungarian Environmental Partnership Foundation (Ökotárs Alapítvány), Stefánia Kapronczay, managing director of the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union (TASZ) and Márta Pardavi, co-director of the Hungarian Helsinki Committee (Magyar Helsinki Bizottság) spoke.

Veronika Móra, director of the Hungarian Environmental Partnership Foundation:

Today it has been revealed that no legislation can rule out the innate willingness to help. Civil society is doing its job: they give shelter to homeless people, help the employment of the disabled, teach underprivileged children, build communities, save trees, the soil, and the rivers. During the COVID-19 crisis, they were among the first to support the people abandoned by the government: they collected and distributed donations, offered legal aid assistance, held informational campaigns, and participated in the organisation of digital teaching.

Stefánia Kapronczay, managing director of the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union:

The NGO law is not about the NGOs themselves, but about the thousands of citizens we represent and whose voices can only be heard through us. It is about the citizens that criticize those exercising power, which explains why those in power have recently been replying with personal attacks instead of substantial answers.

This ruling means protection: within the EU civil society actions are reflective of European values, said Márta Pardavi, co-director of the Hungarian Helsinki Committee in her speech. Borders do not matter when a donor wants to support a cause and now Poland who was preparing similar legislation stigmatizing the green NGOs will not be able to take this step against civil organizations.

With the CJEU’s decision, a very important goal has been achieved: the Hungarian government must now initiate the repealing of the NGO law. With this, the government is given another chance to realize and recognize the everyday hard work of the NGOs that is done in order to make the world and Hungary a more liveable place. Supporting NGOs equals helping those in need, nurturing our communities, protecting the environment, and our rights. These causes are important to all of us.

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