18 December 2020
Six months ago, the Court of Justice of the EU ruled that Hungary’s NGO law violates the EU law. To date, however, no steps have been taken by Hungary to comply with the judgment. In the face of this, NGOs recommend 3 steps for the European Commission.
Six months ago, on 18 June 2020, the Court of Justice of the EU condemned Hungary for the violation of EU law and the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights on grounds of its restrictive legislation on the financing of NGOs. With its judgement, the Court made it clear that similar rules, which are essentially aimed at destroying the reputations and finances of independent civil society organisations, are unlawful in the EU.
To date, however, no steps have been taken by Hungary to comply with thejudgment. On the contrary, the law is being relied on to restrict NGOs’ access to EU funding.
The enforcement of this judgment bears great importance not only to the financing and operations of NGOs and to the protection of those who support them. It is also key to safeguard the ability of Hungarian citizens to rely on the services NGOs provide and on their crucial contribution to a free democratic debate. Ultimately, it is an integral part of the EU’s efforts to safeguard the proper functioning of democracy and the rule of law in Hungary and in all the other Member States.
In the light of this, Liberties drafted a policy brief with the support of the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union, the Hungarian Helsinki Committee and Amnesty International Hungary, which calls on the European Commission to take a firm stance on Hungary’s compliance with this Court of Justice judgment. To that effect, it makes 3 key recommendations:
- Make clear that the Court of Justice’s ruling requires the law to be repealed: a correct reading of the Court of Justice’s decision leaves no margin for the Hungarian government to comply by merely amending the provisions of the existing law. The Commission should therefore take the position that compliance with the ruling requires the Hungarian government to repeal the law as a whole.
- Should Hungary propose amendments, ensure a strict and prompt compliance check: Hungary may refuse to repeal the law and rather propose changes to its provisions. In such case, a strict and prompt compliance check by the Commission will be necessary to avoid that the implementation of the judgment is delayed and that rules unduly harassing and damaging independent NGOs are maintained.
- Set a deadline to return to the Court of Justice: the Commission has the power to return to the Court of Justice and ask for the imposition of fines if Hungary fails to comply with the judgment. The Commission should make it clear to the Hungarian government that it will use this power within a set timeframe.
The full policy brief can be accessed here: