Brussels sues Hungary again for new sovereignty law banning foreign funding of political parties

The Hungarian government introduced new laws against foreign funding after a report revealed left-wing opposition parties and media received over $10 million from overseas NGOs ahead of the last election, primarily from groups with ties to the U.S. Democratic Party

editor: REMIX NEWS
author: Thomas Brooke

The European Commission has launched further infringement proceedings against Hungary — this time to contest a new law designed to restrict undue foreign political interference in domestic elections.

In a press release published on Wednesday, the EU executive claimed that the new law on the Defense of National Sovereignty violates “several provisions of primary and secondary EU law” including the democratic values of the Union, the electoral rights of EU citizens, and the right to a private life and the protection of personal data.

Hungarian lawmakers passed the legislation in December last year by a ratio of nearly 3:1. The new law provides for the creation of an independent authority — the Office for the Defense of Sovereignty — to investigate political interference in Hungarian elections, and the bill prohibits political parties or groups from receiving foreign financing.

A commission formed in the wake of Hungary’s election in April 2022 found various left-wing opposition parties and media outlets had received considerable sums of foreign funding before the election, primarily from the United States.

A National Security Committee report revealed that the U.S.-based NGO, Action for Democracy — an organization with close ties to billionaire oligarch George Soros — had donated HUF 1.8 billion (€4.48 million) to opposition leader Péter Márki-Zay’s campaign, while the pro-opposition news outlet, Ezalényeg, raked in HUF 1 billion (€2.57 million) from an unnamed Swiss organization.

Despite the funding, the coalition formed by left-wing opposition parties failed to dethrone Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and his governing Fidesz party, as they won a landslide victory.

During the committee stage, ruling Hungarian lawmakers were ordered to drop the bill by the commissioner for human rights of the Council of Europe, Dunja Mijatović, after complaining that the new oversight authority could demand personal data from those it suspects to have received foreign funding without adequate safeguards.

The Hungarian government has staunchly defended the new legislation, which came into force on Dec. 22 last year, insisting it was necessary to defend national sovereignty and prevent foreign interference in elections — an issue the European Union has long considered to be of paramount importance when it is Russia being accused of such underhand tactics.

“Hungary’s sovereignty is impaired – and it also carries a heightened risk to national security – if political power gets into the hands of persons or organizations dependent on any foreign power, organization or person,” the bill read.

Former advisor to Hungary’s ruling Fidesz party in the European Parliament, András László, said the bill is popular among the Hungarian electorate.

“Hungarians are outraged about the massive foreign interference in the 2022 general elections. The left-wing parties, media, and organizations received at least $10 million from the United States and Switzerland. The Biden administration announced more ‘grants’ to left-wing media just a few days ago,” he said.

The Commission stated that it had conducted a thorough assessment of the legislation and considers it to be unacceptable, giving Hungary two months to respond to its formal notice before progressing down the route of litigation in the European Court of Justice.

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