Hun­gary sub­mits anti-im­mi­gra­tion ‘Stop Soros’ bill to par­lia­ment

Mea­sure would im­pose 25% tax on for­eign do­na­tions


BU­DAPEST (Reuters) – Hun­gary’s na­tion­al­ist gov­ern­ment in­tro­duced leg­is­la­tion that would em­power the in­te­rior min­is­ter to ban NGOs that sup­port mi­gra­tion and pose a “na­tional se­cu­rity risk.”

The bill, sub­mit­ted to par­lia­ment late on Tues­day, is a key part of Prime Min­is­ter Vik­tor Or­ban’s anti-im­mi­gra­tion cam­paign tar­get­ing US fi­nancier Ge­orge Soros whose phi­lan­thropy aims to bol­ster lib­eral and open-bor­der val­ues in East­ern Europe.

The gov­ern­ment says the bill, which would also im­pose a 25% tax on for­eign do­na­tions to NGOs that back mi­gra­tion in Hun­gary, is meant to de­ter il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion Or­ban says is erod­ing Euro­pean sta­bil­ity and has been stoked in part by Soros.

Hun­gary and Poland are both un­der na­tion­al­ist gov­ern­ments that have clashed with the Euro­pean Union lead­er­ship in Brus­sels over their au­thor­i­tar­ian drift de­vi­at­ing from EU stan­dards on democ­racy and rule of law.

But Or­ban’s mes­sage, cham­pi­oning con­ser­va­tive Chris­tian be­liefs and re­ject­ing mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism, has gone down well with Hun­gar­ian vot­ers and his Fidesz party is ex­pected to se­cure a third straight term in a gen­eral elec­tion due on April 8.

The bill says that NGOs that “spon­sor, or­ga­nize or sup­port the en­try or stay of third-coun­try cit­i­zens on Hun­gar­ian ter­ri­tory via a safe third coun­try to ex­tend in­ter­na­tional pro­tec­tion... qual­ify as or­ga­ni­za­tions sup­port­ing mi­gra­tion.”

Such ac­tiv­ity – in­clud­ing cam­paign­ing, ad­vo­cacy, re­cruit­ing vol­un­teers, pro­duc­ing in­for­ma­tion book­lets – would have to be ap­proved by the in­te­rior min­is­ter, who could deny per­mis­sion if he saw a “na­tional se­cu­rity risk.”

If an NGO con­tin­ued with such ac­tiv­ity, Hun­gar­ian prose­cu­tors could act to with­draw the NGO’s tax num­ber, es­sen­tially par­a­lyz­ing it, slap it with heavy fines and ul­ti­mately dis­solve it.

Or­ga­ni­za­tions that sup­port mi­gra­tion will have to pay tax on the for­eign fund­ing or as­sets they re­ceive, the bill says, with a pos­si­ble ex­emp­tion on fund­ing that serves hu­man­i­tar­ian goals.

Ac­tivists who or­ga­nize or sup­port mi­gra­tion could also face re­strain­ing or­ders prevent­ing them from ap­proach­ing the EU’s ex­ter­nal bor­ders in Hun­gary.

Or­ban has been em­broiled in an es­ca­lat­ing “Stop Soros” feud with the 87-year-old Hun­gar­ian-born Jew, wag­ing a bill­board and me­dia cam­paign as­sert­ing that he would “set­tle mil­lions from Africa and the Mid­dle East.”

Soros has re­jected the cam­paign against him as “dis­tor­tions and lies” meant to cre­ate a false ex­ter­nal en­emy.

Pro-gov­ern­ment me­dia re­ported ear­lier that the new leg­is­la­tion could lead to a ban on Soros, who has US and Hun­gar­ian cit­i­zen­ship, en­ter­ing the coun­try.

The Hun­gar­ian Helsinki Com­mit­tee, an NGO that has been pro­vid­ing sup­port for the le­gal and hu­man rights of var­i­ous groups in­clud­ing asy­lum-seek­ers and pris­on­ers since 1994, said the bill was un­ac­cept­able and served po­lit­i­cal goals.

“[Its goal] is to stig­ma­tize cer­tain civil or­ga­ni­za­tions that the gov­ern­ment does not like... and to dis­tance them from so­ci­ety, and in the end make their op­er­a­tion im­pos­si­ble,” the com­mit­tee, which re­ceives a ma­jor chunk of its fund­ing from Soros, said in a state­ment.

Poland, Hun­gary and other ex-com­mu­nist east­ern mem­ber states of the EU have all pushed a strong anti-im­mi­grant stance, even though the num­ber of asy­lum-seek­ers who want to stay in these coun­tries is very few com­pared to West­ern Euro­pean coun­tries.

Last year, the Or­ban gov­ern­ment in­tro­duced a mea­sure re­quir­ing NGOs that get money from abroad to reg­is­ter with the state, rais­ing alarm in the EU and United States.

The Euro­pean Com­mis­sion said last year it was tak­ing Bu­dapest to the EU’s top court over its NGO laws as well as a higher ed­u­ca­tion law that tar­gets the Cen­tral Euro­pean Uni­ver­sity in Bu­dapest founded by Soros.

(Ber­nadett Sz­abo/Reuters)

A GOV­ERN­MENT bill­board is seen in Bu­dapest yes­ter­day. It reads: ‘Soros wants to trans­plant mil­lions from Africa and the Mid­dle East.’

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