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‘Stop Soros’ first up on new Parliament agenda May 7-8

Hungaryʼs new Parliament will convene for its first session on May 7-8, pro-government daily Magyar Idők reported Thursday, in line with parliamentary rules requiring the President of the Republic to call lawmakers to session within one month after general elections. The ruling Fidesz-KDNP coalition won resoundingly on April 8.   

At the top of MPsʼ agenda, Magyar Idők reported, will be a vote on a package of bills submitted in February that would require organizations to pay a 25% duty on funding from abroad that allegedly “supports illegal migration.” The proposed legislation would also require organizations deemed to support illegal migration to register and be licensed by the minister in charge of refugee affairs, and would allow authorities to keep individuals who support illegal migration eight kilometers away from the Hungarian side of the border.

The draft legislation comprises the governmentʼs earlier announced “Stop Soros” package, aimed at combating an alleged plan outlined by Hungarian-born investor and philanthropist George Soros to forcibly resettle migrants in Europe. Soros has repeatedly denied the existence of such a plan, while the Open Society Foundations founded by Soros have strongly condemned the new legislation, arguing that the proposed measures “criminalize civil society.”  

Passing of the Stop Soros package was delayed until after the elections as the governing parties did not have the necessary two-thirds majority in the House to pass points of the draft legislation affecting the law on national security. Following Sundayʼs elections, the governing coalition now has the necessary majority.

The Stop Soros package has been the target of widespread criticism from international organizations, with the Council of Europe expressing serious concerns over added restrictions on the operations of NGOs, already hampered by the passing of a law last year, which is subject to an ongoing EU infringement procedure.

Hungaryʼs legislation on foreign-funded NGOs was officially put before the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) in February, the third step in infringement proceedings begun last July.

The latter legislation, adopted by Parliament last June, requires NGOs that receive foreign funding of over HUF 7.2 million a year to specify that they are “organizations supported from abroad” in all publications, websites and press materials they disseminate. The legislation also establishes a reporting obligation for this funding, as well as sanctions for failure to comply with the provisions of the law.

With respect to the Stop Soros legislation that aims to further tighten restrictions on NGOs, the Council of Europe has expressed alarm at the escalating rhetoric used by the Hungarian government to portray NGOs and immigrants as a threat to national security.

“This discourse is stirring up among the population fears and intolerance towards foreigners and mistrust towards civil society organizations,” Nils Muižnieks, Commissioner for Human Rights at the Council of Europe, said in February.

Next on the parliamentary agenda will be debate over next yearʼs budget, Magyar Idők reported.