Hungary Needs NGO-s

On 21 March 2017 the Hungarian Europe Society signed a joint protest declaration as one of its initiators against the threats presented by the Hungarian government to civil organisations.

Signatory NGOs

There is no society without civil society: Hungary needs us. 

The work of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) is essential to Hungarian society. We do diverse and irreplaceable work while striving for the common good and the achievement of democracy:
the self-organisation of citizens provides shared opportunities for cultural, educational, health and environmental advocacy. Moreover, it allows groups of citizens to jointly represent their interests, participate in public life, and keep the political power of office holders in check at all times.

We, the undersigned NGOs resolve to reject the Hungarian Government’s aspirations to restrict and stigmatise civil society. We are indispensable to Hungarian society to deal with and monitor matters that others do not pay enough attention to. We stand up for ourselves and for each other.

Hungary needs NGOs

Parliament’s legislative plan for the first half of 2017 includes the intention to amend the regulation which defines the legal functioning of NGOs. During a press conference held on 14 March 2017, it was announced that Fidesz-led coalition would initiate a five-party consultation on a draft law concerning "foreign-funded" organisations. The actual content of this so-called “national consultation” is yet unknown. However, some politicians have gone so far as to propose that the process be used as a method to “clear away” certain NGOs, while others labelled particular NGOs as foreign agents.

We the undersigned NGOs, strongly protest. Pursuing such a legislative agenda would infringe upon the freedom of association. Furthermore, we reject the attempt to stigmatise NGOs, their clients, sympathisers and supporters. Such a move not only impinges on the perception of the valuable work and credibility of organisations in question, but also limits of democratic expression and the possibility of citizen participation in public affairs as a whole. Based on statements concerning the proposed legislation up until now, the modifications would run contrary to international conventions signed by Hungary, and probably not pass the test of constitutionality.

We maintain that the so-called "national consultation" is an unsuitable method to assess the true facts and state of public opinion. Based on past experience, it is clear that this cannot be a substitute for real social debate.

The current Hungarian regulation regarding the NGO sector provides an adequate framework that guarantees legal safeguards, as well as the transparency and accountability for the activities for which the civil organisations were established. Management transparency is already sufficiently regulated, as highlighted by data made publicly available in a number of press releases.

Therefore, it is unacceptable that we can only keep abreast of information concerning the new legislative ideas and "national consultation" from the press when certain politicians make statements to discredit civil society. We anticipate that the formulation of any new law (amendment) must involve stakeholders and professional debate before it reaches its final form; as one would expect in a democratic constitutional state, and as required by Hungarian law.

We demand that the regulation governing the functioning of civil society’s fundraising and activities be transparent, and that it be consistent with international and European standards. Most importantly, the regulation must guarantee the right of citizens to freely associate, organise their activities and search for funds.

Declaration of the Hungarian Europe Society on the Judgement of Fidel Castro

The Hungarian Europe Society (HES) has been witnessing with great bewilderment and concern, that the European Commission has refrained from referring to Fidel Castro, following his passing, as what he really was: a dictator. We are expressing our outrage at the statement of European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, who stated “With the death of Fidel Castro, the world has lost a man who was a hero for many” and whose legacy will be judged by history. Federica Mogherini, the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission wrote: “Fidel Castro was a man of determination and an historical figure.”

We believe that there is no need to wait for the judgement of history. We know that Fidel Castro and his communist single-party system were responsible for the massacre of several tens of thousands of people since he came to power in 1959. His regime incarcerated thousands of Christians, civil activists and LGBT people besides the members of the political opposition in prisons and work camps, and the regime violated the basic civil liberties, such as the rights to freedom of speech and opinion, as well as the freedom of assembly. The human rights situation in Cuba is very dire up to this day: according to information from the opposition, this year alone six thousand people were arrested for political reasons. We firmly believe that not even the death of Castro is a good enough reason to keep silent and relativise the crimes of the Cuban communist regime. Doing so undermines the historical significance of the Central and Eastern European region and denigrates the sacrifices of the many millions of victims to the communist regime. 

Our concern is heightened by the fact that the statements from the EU leadership following the death of Fidel Castro come at a time when it would be the absolute duty of the European Commission to stand up to those member states (Hungary, Poland) that at this very moment are questioning the basic values of liberal democracies and are putting efforts into dismantling the system of checks and balances. The President of the European Commission bares a political responsibility to protect our common European values and human rights, thus cannot allow himself such declarations. There is a real risk for the European Union to lose credibility if it doesn’t stand up incontestably against existing or developing dictatorships, whereas it stands for human rights and democratic values on the global stage. The Hungarian Europe Society therefore endorses the statement made by the European Commissioner of Trade Cecilia Malmström, who declared: “Fidel Castro was a dictator who oppressed his people for 50 years”, and remarked that she found it strange to hear all the tributes. 

We express our hope that Cuba, following a peaceful and successful transition will soon join the community of democratic States. 

2 December 2016

Make the Referendum Invalid!

Hungarian non-governmental organisations, including the Hungarian Europe Society, condemned the anti-refugee referendum announced by the government in a joint declaration on 14 September 2016. They advice citizens to boycott the referendum or to submit an invalid vote.

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Let's Invalidate the Hungarian Refugee Quota Referendum!

We, Hungarian NGOs and citizens with a sense of responsibility for our country, believe in a country where our common matters are managed with humaneness, solidarity and mutual respect. We are concerned about seeing the government threaten our common values, therefore we speak out against the referendum scheduled for October 2, as well as the hate campaign surrounding the vote.

We decided to start a campaign to invalidate the referendum, which fails to promote our common concerns and is both pointless and inhuman.

Solidarity with Protesters in Poland

Declaration of the Hungarian Europe Society
Please find the Declaration in Polish here.

The Hungarian Europe Society expresses solidarity with all Poles protesting against recent steps by the Polish government limiting democracy in Poland.

We are concerned about the measures which are meant to bring the Constitutional Court and the public media under the exclusive control of the Law and Justice (PiS) party led government. 

PiS is attempting to invalidate the mandate of five judges appointed by the previous Sejm – including both the two controversially and even the three lawfully selected candidates – and fill the Court with its own nominees instead. Additionally, it seeks to modify its operation, which will make this institution powerless to ensure the government’s compliance with the constitutional principles. 

The leaders of the public media are rapidly replaced and the institution is put under direct control of the government. This is implemented by PiS claiming that it is building neutral media but the cynical nomination of the party’s spin doctor as the head of the public television proves that PiS is in fact working towards securing full control over the public media. 

Humanism and the Refugees

On 8 September 2015, Hungarian NGO-s, including the Hungarian Europe Society, in a joint statement, asked the Hungarian government to acknowledge humanitarian aspects when dealing with the refugees and expressed their gratitude to the volunteers for their work.

Budapest, September 8, 2015 – The refugee crisis unfolding these days in Hungary has led to a critical situation where we feel it is our duty to speak out. The signatories urge the Hungarian government to handle the humanitarian crisis in the wake of the arrival of refugees according to basic standards of humanity, and to provide real help instead of criminalizing the refugees.

We do not wish to deny that the European asylum system is presently going through a severe crisis, nor to suggest that the key to the solution resides solely in the hands of the Hungarian government. None of the above, however, is ground for exemption from the duty of attempting to alleviate the plight of refugees. That is not a refugee issue or an immigration issue, but a basic requirement of humanity. Providing help to people in need, and doing everything we can for them – this is the moral responsibility of each and every citizen and government.

Yet, because of either inaptitude or deliberate inaction on the part of the government, a crisis has emerged in the streets and on the squares of Budapest, reaching by now the border village of Röszke as well. Handling the situation has been left for months to civil society groups and individuals sacrificing their free time, work, knowledge and money to provide assistance to their fellow human beings in need. We express our respect for and solidarity with the formal and informal civic communities that have done, with incredible determination and perseverance, that which should have been the task of the institutions of the state: to provide humane conditions for those in need.

The situation that developed in Röszke needs to be solved by the state, with the involvement of international organizations. We call on the government of Hungary to act the way a government can be expected to act in a crisis: humanely, fairly, and with due respect for human rights. Instead of criminalizing the refugees, let the government focus on alleviating their suffering and plight.