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Asia and the Pacific
Western Asia

Hungary - December 2023

Parliament passes ‘sovereignty law’

On 12 December, the parliament passed a law to protect “national sovereignty,” targeting what the ruling Fidesz party views as unwarranted foreign political interference, particularly through funding to political parties during the electoral campaigns. The legislation, passed with 141 votes in favour and 50 against, establishes the Sovereignty Protection Office, equipped with extensive investigative powers. This office can scrutinize NGOs and individuals engaged in public discourse, initiating investigations into those suspected of serving foreign interests. The Penal Code now states that those who are found to have accepted foreign funding while running for office may face up to three years in prison. The Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights urged Fidesz to abandon the proposal, expressing concerns about potential misuse of sensitive data. Four major political groups voiced deep concerns about threats to the rule of law in a letter to EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. Critics, including rights groups, warned the law resembles Russia's foreign agent legislation, posing risks to freedom of expression and independent journalism.

Sources: Euronews, Index (1), Index (2), Reuters (1), Reuters (2), International Press Institute, S&D Group (X), Committee to Protect Journalists

Primary categories and factors
Rights -1 Rights  (-1)
Civil Liberties
Freedom of Expression
Freedom of The Press
Rule of Law -1 Rule of Law  (-1)
Personal Integrity and Security
Participation -1 Participation  (-1)
Civil Society
Secondary categories and factors
Representation Representation
Credible Elections
Free Political Parties

EU Commission unblocks EUR 10.2 billion in cohesion funds
Watch flag

The European Commission unblocked EUR 10.2 billion in cohesion funds for Hungary, nearly a year after freezing the funds due to the country's failure to address rule-of-law concerns. This decision enables the government to submit reimbursement requests for development projects. Didier Reynders, the European Commissioner for Justice, emphasized that improved judicial independence guarantees have been received, cautioning this is not the conclusion of the process and indicating ongoing vigilance for any potential setbacks. Approximately EUR 21 billion in funding for Hungary remains locked. Some observers said that the release of funds is part of negotiations with Hungary not to oppose accession negotiations with Ukraine and not to block funds and military aid to Ukraine. The European Commission maintains that its decision is a procedural response to Hungary's judicial reform. Amnesty International and the Hungarian Helsinki Committee argue that the reform inadequately addresses the concerns raised by Brussels, since the solutions violate rule of law by breaching relevant legislation, neglecting public consultations and civil society’s proposals.

Sources: European Commission, Euronews, Deutsche Welle, Politico, Balkan Insight, Hungarian Helsinki Committee, Magyar Hand

Primary categories and factors
Rule of Law 0 Rule of Law  (0)
Judicial Independence

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