The Hungarian Europe Society, as a member of Civilizáció NGO community, signed a protest against the so-called sovereignty protection bill introduced by the Hungarian government in November 2023. A broader campaign was also started to collect supportive signatures from citizens on 1 December.
Over 100 NGOs protest against the Defense of Sovereignty Law
STATEMENT OF THE CIVILISATION COALITION
The Hungarian Parliament is about to adopt the so-called Defense of Sovereignty Law. This is in fact the government's attempt to deter its own citizens from democratic participation and to discourage the discussion of public affairs.
Over 100 Hungarian civil society organisations are protesting against adopting the law that only protects the arbitrary interests of those in power, and call on the government to stop stigmatising and intimidating citizens who are active in public affairs.
A country where people are intimidated from representing their own interests is not a democracy. Where civil society organisations cannot operate freely, our most basic rights are not respected. Where citizens are accused of serving foreign interests if they speak their minds on public affairs, there is no freedom.
The proposed text of the law is deliberately vague and is meant to exert a chilling effect. The new Office for the Defense of Sovereignty will be able to investigate any organisation or individual on unclear and wide-ranging pretexts, such as foreign interests and threatening Hungary's sovereignty or using foreign funding. In the course of its investigations, the agency will have access to any data and information about civil society organizations, companies, political parties, churches and even individuals, in full disregard of privacy. There are no legal remedies against this procedure.
By implying that foreign interests are behind every critical position, authorities disregard their own citizens when they seek to intimidate, deter and silence those who are actively engaged in public life. The law’s broad scope means it could target, journalists, media, non-profit or private sector organisations as well as those citizens who speak out against policies and laws that curb the rights and jeopardise the future of Hungary’s people, such as the harmful environmental impact of a planned factory next to their homes.
But no law can abolish the will to help and participate. There will always be committed people who will stand up for democracy, the rule of law and human rights. As surveys show, Hungarian society continues to value that taking a critical stance is an important role of civil society organisations.
Hungary needs citizens, civil society organisations and local communities who are willing, enthusiastic and committed - to discuss public life. Without them, there will be nothing left but the arbitrariness of power and the desolation of autocracy.
The law violates Hungary’s constitution and is also in breach of EU law and international standards, just like previous anti-NGO laws passed in 2017 and 2018. These have already failed, and this law will be no different.
Budapest, 1 December 2023