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Hungary ‘another step away’ from EU, NATO values, says U.S.

The U.S. Department of State considers Hungary’s recently submitted law on NGOs as “another step away” from the values of the European Union and NATO, according to a press statement issued Monday by Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert.

The Hungarian Parliament, thanks to the Fidesz-KDNP majority, passed a new law on non-governmental organizations (NGOs) on June 13. Critics, including the European Commission, accuse the legislation of attacking civil society in Hungary, and the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union (TASZ) has said it will refuse to comply with its provisions in an act of civil disobedience.

“The United States is concerned by the Hungarian Parliament’s passage of legislation that unfairly burdens and targets Hungarian civil society, which is working to fight corruption and protect civil liberties,” reads the latest statement from the State Department spokesperson.

“By portraying groups supported with foreign funding as acting against the interests of Hungarian society, this legislation would weaken the ability of Hungarians to organize and address concerns in a legitimate and democratic manner,” the statement adds. “If signed into law, this would be another step away from Hungary’s commitments to uphold the principles and values that are central to the EU and NATO.”

The statement reinforces concerns expressed by the U.S. Embassy in Hungary last Wednesday, which said the United States is “troubled” by the law, which it says stigmatizes local civil society groups.

Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said last Friday morning he does not “understand” the United States’ concerns over the law on NGOs, as he claimed the U.S. has “much stricter” legislation.

Despite the concerns raised in Hungary and internationally, Hungary’s President János Áder signed the NGO law into effect on Friday, saying he sees no constitutional concerns with it.

The Venice Commission, the European Commission for Democracy through Law, indicated yesterday it is still concerned about the recently passed law, despite amendments made prior to the vote.