Without active citizens, there is no free Hungary

NGOs have always been at the forefront of freedom of action. Civic activists, who were organised into political parties and citizens who acted as citizens to protect their environment, were also the main force behind the regime change of 1989-90. Only grassroots organisation, involvement and activation can offer effective solutions to oppressive regimes.

Civil society has a lot of energy. But it is difficult to mobilise this energy because many find it hard to believe that action really matters. The more abstract an issue is to be acted upon, the harder it is. But problems that are visible to the naked eye have a stronger impact on citizens: an ill-considered local building project, a road in the wrong place, untreated homelessness, a street light that is out of order, a tree line that is scheduled for destruction, a missing bus route can all too easily become a basis for organising. There are already many, many examples that make it credible that these issues are worth even a dozen people taking a stand and taking action against public power. These are causes that mobilise real social energies that lie deep down.

Every successful cause, every successful organising is a chink in the shield of power that is thought to be inviolable. Those who carry such a cause through very often stay intact because they understand that they are the real social counter-power. Moreover, these examples are sticky: if they could do it in Gyál, why not in Vecsés? We can be sure that there will be others who will remember this. The more successful cases there are, the more people will believe in their own strength.

TASZ supports many such initiatives by providing legal advice on requesting public interest information, filing a public interest report, reporting a demonstration, adding legal aspects to technical material or even passing on known good practices. The organisations and projects presented here are just a taste of the diversity of the Hungarian civil society sector, to which TASZ contributes through its legal aid and knowledge transfer activities. We hope that this taster will stimulate the release of the social energies that are latent everywhere in the country. It will certainly bring us all closer to living together more freely and better in Hungary.

AVM Pécs (The City Belongs to All - Pécs)

Eleven Gyál

Üllő Te Vagy!

The civil society organisation Üllő Te Vagy! was founded with the aim of representing the interests of local residents – established and newcomers alike. In light of the local government’s failure to deliver basic services such as street lighting, sewerage and roads, the group is campaigning for the responsible use of public money and creating a dialogue around the needs of residents. A recurring issue of concern to the organisation is the influx of commercial activity to the local area.

Despite their protests, a logistics park was built merely 30 metres away from a residential street. Due to the continuous air and sound pollution, property prices in its vicinity have plummeted. Now, a similar situation is looming over the families living on Gyömrő Road, where an industrial estate is planned to be built on a site spanning 180 000 square metres. Since the constructor’s proposition to build a noise-reducing hill was deemed insufficient, representatives of the organisations have started a petition and collected over 200 signatures that they personally presented to the mayor. The group is hoping to negotiate an increase in the distance between the complex and the residential buildings, and they are also working on setting up a remediation fund. Already, the organisation has been successful in enhancing a sense of active citizenship among members of the local community and foregrounding the importance of transparency.

Üllő Te Vagy! - Image report of the collaboration in Hungarian