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The Hungarian government should implement court judgments that protect civil society

Budapest, 20 June 2023 – On the fifth anniversary of Hungary’s anti-NGO laws, Hungarian civil society organisations call on the government to fully implement court judgments that uphold their rights.

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Váltás magyarra
Civilisation coalition calls on the government to fully implement court judgments that would put an end to stigmatizing national civil society organizations (CSOs). The unlawful administrative, criminal law, and financial measures that are still in effect render the operation of the CSOs excessively difficult and exert a chilling effect on the functioning of the entire Hungarian society.

Exactly five years ago, on World Refugee Day on 20 June 2018, members of the Hungarian parliament from the Fidesz, the Christian-Democrat (KDNP) and Jobbik groups adopted the Stop Soros legislative package. The law has been threatening to imprison human rights activists who assist asylum-seekers ever since. Even though, pursuant to the European Commission’s infringement action,  the Court of Justice of the EU in November 2021  ruled that the Stop Soros law breaches EU law, the Government has failed to take genuine steps to implement the judgment. On this sad anniversary, we repeat our call on the government to stop harassing CSOs who protect the rights of people; instead, the government should work in collaboration with civil society to restore the rule of law in Hungary.

A core mission for civil society is defending the rights and interests of vulnerable people against the state at domestic and international fora, even if this irritates the powers that be. Civil society organisations carry out this mission, for example, when they provide free legal advice and representation to victims of human rights violations, organize awareness-raising campaigns, express their opinion on legislative drafts or analyse the practice of authorities. A vibrant and strong civil society is a key pillar of a healthy democracy, and holding government power to account so that it is exercised in the interest of the whole of society is an essential role of civil society.

However, since it assumed power in 2010, the Fidesz-KDNP coalition has been continuously trying to block the operation of independent civil society organisations and turn Hungarian society against them. Stigmatising messaging that targeted independent CSOs was soon followed by political and legislative measures. Disregarding the opinions of the Venice Commission, OSCE ODIHR and the EU institutions, which have consistently stated that laws harassing CSOs, and the hostile political environment are incompatible with European legal standards and values, similar to a set of other systemic rule of law violations, the government has refused to heed their warnings.

Most recently, attention has centred mainly on judicial independence and anti-corruption issues, given the context of the suspension of almost 30 billion EUR of EU funds to Hungary over grave rule-of-law concerns. However, the systemic infringement of the rule of law in Hungary also has other drivers, including the various pressures independent civil society is facing.

First, the 2021 version of LexNGO (Act XLIX of 2021 on the Transparency of Organizations Carrying out Activities Capable of Influencing Public Life) is still in force, although it violates the rights of a number of CSOs by subjecting them to audits by the State Audit Office that lack adequate justification and legal safeguards. Second, despite the small changes to the original ‘Stop Soros’ package in late 2022, the Criminal Code still penalises the ‘facilitation and support of illegal immigration’, which continues to have a deterring effect on civil society defending the rights of asylum-seekers and fails to implement the CJEU judgment in Case C-821/19. Third, the special 25 % immigration tax (Act XLI of 2018) on donations aimed at ‘facilitating’ immigration’ also remains in force, exerting a chilling effect.

The government should repeal the measures that obstruct the work of civil society and stop its smear campaigns against them. Instead, it should strive to cooperate with independent civil society organizations to restore the rule of law. Therefore, we call upon the government to

  • repeal Act XLIX of 2021 on the Transparency of Organizations Carrying out Activities Capable of Influencing Public Life,

  •  implement the CJEU judgment in case C-821/19 and repeal in its entirety Section 353/A of the Criminal Code that continues to criminalize the ‘facilitation and support of illegal immigration’,

  • repeal Section 253 of Act XLI of 2018 that prescribes a special 25 % immigration tax on donations funding activities ‘facilitating immigration’,

  • guarantee unhindered access to public funding for independent civil society organisations and ensure that such funding processes are open, transparent, and inclusive for all CSOs, and

  • refrain from making statements that harass and exert a chilling effect on civil society.

Civilisation coalition


  1. Alternative Communities Association

  2. Amnesty International Hungary

  3. Civil College Foundation

  4. Clean Air Action Group

  5. Haver Foundation

  6. Háttér Society

  7. Human Platform Association

  8. Hungarian Civil Liberties Union

  9. Hungarian Europe Society

  10. Hungarian Helsinki Committee

  11. MENŐK Association

  12. Ökotárs Foundation

  13. Roots and Wings Foundation

  14. Transparency International Hungary

  15. Védegylet Association

  16. With the Power of Humanity Foundation

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Hungarian Helsinki Committee