A group representing a majority of MEPs have demanded the European Parliament start disciplinary proceedings against Hungary, over laws targeting foreign funding for NGOs in the country which have been likened by some to the persecution of Jews in Nazi Germany.
Earlier this week, Hungary’s parliament approved a law that could see the Soros-founded Central European University (CEU) shut its doors, and the ruling Fidesz party announced it will go ahead with a promised crackdown on foreign-funded NGOs.
The bill will require NGOs with a yearly foreign income of more than 7.2 million forints (£20,000) to register with the government, which argues people and groups from abroad are using such organisations “to pursue their own interests” in a way “which threatens [Hungary’s] political and economic interests”.
Akos Hadhazy, a lawmaker from the opposition green-liberal LMP party, told Reuters that Fidesz “crossed a red line” in deciding to crack down on CEU and the influence of big money on NGOs.
“This is a dirty little law. All it does is mark the government’s least favourite NGOs with a yellow star,” he added, referring to the Nazis’ requirement that Jews wore identifying stars on their clothes.
MEPs in Strasbourg from all the parliament’s left wing groups, liberals, and some from the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP), called for action to be taken against Hungary.
According to Euractiv, a disciplinary procedure can mean suspension of an EU state’s voting rights, but such an action has never been taken.
The Brussels-focussed media platform says while the European Commission or the European Council have the ability to take action against Hungary, it has been reluctant to do so as it could fuel Euroscepticism at a time when Brussels fears that the European Union (EU) is becoming increasingly unpopular.
Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán recently stated that the country “cannot afford to allow” NGOs to “remain in the shadows – not declaring who they receive their money from and for what purposes” while working against its interests.
Mr Orbán’s spokesman, Zoltán Kovács, said Hungarian billionaire Soros “drives a clear political agenda”, noting “one of the pillars” of which is “promoting immigration, supporting mass, illegal migration into Europe from the Middle East and Northern Africa, and acts against governments like Hungary’s, which prefer a pro-security approach.
“It’s no conspiracy theory; the billionaire is open about these plans,” he added.