Hungary approves strict regulations on foreign-funded NGOs

People hold placards during a protest against a new law that would undermine Central European University in Budapest on 15 April Image copyright Reuters

Hungary’s parliament has approved a law imposing strict regulations on foreign-funded non-government organisations.

The new rules increase reporting requirements for the groups, which risk closure for non-compliance.

Critics say the move is a crackdown on independent voices and an attempt to stigmatise the organisations.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban has accused foreign-funded NGOs, in particular those supported by American billionaire George Soros, of domestic interference.

Groups receiving more than €24,000 ($26,000; £21,000) will have to register as “foreign-supported organisation”.

Mr Orban’s government says the measures aim at improving transparency and fighting money laundering and terrorism funding.

But the rules are seen as targeting Hungarian-born Mr Soros, who for decades has given away billions of dollars to promote a liberal, “open society” culture, and has founded the prestigious Central European University.

Mr Soros is seen by Mr Orban as an ideological enemy.

The law, passed by 130 votes to 44, resembles legislation introduced in Russia in 2012 requiring NGOs to call themselves “foreign agents” if they get any foreign funding, which led to a ban on Soros foundations.

Human rights group Amnesty International said the Hungarian law was a “vicious and calculated assault on civil society”, while Human Rights Watch considered it an attempt of “silencing critical voices in society”.

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