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May 09, 2017

Hungary open to constructive dialog with Council of Europe over NGOs and transparency

Hungary's Parliamentary Speaker said it is important to underline that Hungary recognizes the significant contribution of non-governmental organizations to the promotion of common values and goals. These organizations also play an important role in the democratic control of the government and shaping public opinion

Hungary is ready to engage in constructive dialog with the Council of Europe and will continue to do so over the country's stance on NGOs, László Kövér, parliamentary speaker, said in a letter addressed to the Council of Europe's Commissioner for Human Rights.

According to MTI, Kövér responded to a letter by Nils Muiznieks, in which the commissioner had expressed concern in connection with the draft law on the transparency of NGOs supported from abroad and called on MPs to reject the law.

Kövér noted in his response that the CoE under Secretary General Thorbjorn Jagland has shown an open and constructive spirit towards its member states and this has greatly contributed to the settlement of sensitive issues raised within the framework of the organization.

“Only through negotiation and cooperation can we find long lasting solutions that reconcile the norms and principles of the organization with legitimate national interests. I hope you share this approach,” he said.

Kövér said it is important to underline that Hungary recognizes the significant contribution of non-governmental organizations to the promotion of common values and goals. These organizations also play an important role in the democratic control of the government and shaping public opinion, he added.

The right to freedom of association, as well as other connected fundamental rights, such as the freedom of assembly and the freedom of expression, are guaranteed by the fundamental law of Hungary in line with the norms of the CoE, he said.

The draft law submitted by four MPs is aimed at enhancing the transparency of funding of non-governmental organizations, Kövér said. It neither affects the basic rights associated with freedom of association, nor blocks the access of the affected organizations to resources on the grounds of nationality or country of origin, he added.

As noted in the joint OSCE/ODIHR and Venice Commission Guidelines on Freedom of Association, as well as the expert opinion of the Venice Commission on the issue, the freedom to seek, receive and use resources can be subject to requirements related to the prevention of money laundering or terrorism, he said. These documents also underline that resources received by civil organizations may legitimately be subject to reporting and transparency requirements, he added.

Kövér expressed his belief that after careful examination of the document Muiznieks will acknowledge that the overall aim of the draft law is in line with the relevant international guidelines, including those elaborated under the auspices of the CoE.

“I wish to note that the issue of the Draft Act on the transparency of organisations receiving support from abroad was discussed in the meeting on 24 April between Secretary General Jagland and Minister of Justice Trocsanyi, and the two have agreed to continue expert discussions on the legislation," he said.

“As you are also aware the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe has requested the opinion of the Venice Commission on the draft law. Hungary stands ready to continue the dialogue within the framework of Council of Europe based on shared values and principles and, last but not least, mutual respect," he added.