The Hungarian government published its proposal on the “Stop Soros” legislative package on 18 January 2018, announcing that it will submit the draft for public debate. The draft intends to introduce the category of organizations supporting illegal migration. Civil society organizations falling into this category would be obliged to register and submit detailed statements on their foreign funding and, if they fail to comply with these obligations, they may have to face a fine of twice the amount of their foreign funding or even the dissolution of the organization. The organizations concerned would have to pay a quarter of their foreign funding as duty, and they could prove only subsequently that the funding did not aim to promote illegal migration. The Act would authorize the Minister of the Interior to ban even Hungarian citizens from entering the 8 km area surrounding the border. Moreover, it would introduce stricter requirements for all civil society organizations in order to obtain public benefit status and the related tax allowances, in such a manner that the great majority of these organizations would be clearly unable to meet the requirements. The draft has not been submitted to Parliament yet, but according to statements by the members of the government, they would like the National Assembly to vote on the package in February.
The 2018 Hungarian parliamentary elections are set to take place on April 8th. It is of the utmost importance that government policies are debated freely and publicly during the period before the election. Without this, citizens cannot make responsible decisions on who they should entrust with the power of government for the next four years. However, the government’s purpose with this draft law is by no means to promote a genuine public discussion of asylum policy, migration or civil society. On the contrary, this package fits into the government’s communication campaign and series of measures launched several years ago, which has questioned the right to participate in public life and to express opinions freely of civil society members who are critical of the government. If this package is passed, the legal instruments introduced by it will threaten the very existence of the civil society organizations it targets.
For the time being, the government targets mainly organizations and not people in this legislative package, but the drafts also envisage measures (e.g. immigration restraining orders) that may limit the fundamental rights (e.g. the freedom of movement) of natural persons. If the National Assembly passes this package, we will be one step closer to a situation in which every citizen can ask to what extent he may criticize the government or behave in a way that is not to the government’s liking without risking state repression.
The analysis can be downloaded here: From Forced Self-Incrimination to Bans to Enter Border Areas