Hungary replies to European Commission over NGO law dispute

Source: Xinhua| 2017-08-14 22:51:20|Editor: yan
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BUDAPEST, Aug. 14 (Xinhua) -- Hungary on Monday sent back its answers to the European Commission (EC) regarding the infraction procedures against the laws regulating Non Governmental Organizations (NGO) and the Central European University (CEU), Parliamentary State Secretary at the Ministry of Justice Pal Volner said here on Monday.

"In these letters Hungary has shown that the restrictions in question were both necessary and proportionate," Volner said, adding that "It is not our fault if these restrictions violate the interests of George Soros."

A Hungarian law hastily approved in April threatens to shut down the Soros-founded Central European University (CEU) in Budapest.

The CEU argues that the law is specifically against itself, because the Hungarian-born American billionaire George Soros is seen as meddling in the internal affairs of Hungary.

However, the accusation was rejected by the Hungarian government, who says the new regulation only removes advantages that 28 foreign-registered universities enjoy over local institutions like offering degrees accredited in two countries.

The CEU gives both Hungarian and American diplomas, yet has campus only in Hungary.

"But George Soros cannot stand above the law in Hungary, and we hope that the European Commission will get back to the rule of law," Volner explained.

If treaties are not signed between Hungary and both the U.S. federal and New York State governments, CEU could lose its operating licence for the 2018-19 academic year. Hungary and New York State are currently in talks.

Volner pointed that the dispute going on between Hungary and the EU was "rather of political than legal nature."

He also deplored that the European Commission has only given one month to Hungary to answer, versus earlier, when they had two months to present its standpoint.

"They systematically and arbitrarily undermine our right to protection, they want to make a decision on these matters as soon as possible," he added.

Volner also said that since the education matters are under national jurisdiction, the authority of the European Commission in this question was questionable.

Citing examples of similar laws in Germany, Spain and the Czech Republic, he said if Hungary's regulation was not good, procedures should be launched against these countries as well.

He further said "Both the United States and Israel have similar regulations, furthermore, even the EU is preparing a similar set of rules."

Hungary's parliament approved in June a law on foreign-backed civil society groups despite international concern, in a move seen as targeting U.S. billionaire George Soros.

The new regulation stipulates that groups receiving more than 7.2 million forints (about 25,000 U.S. dollars) annually in overseas funding must register as a "foreign-supported organization", or risk closure for non-compliance. They also have to use the label "foreign-supported organization" on their websites, press releases and other publications.

The Hungarian government says the measures are aimed at improving transparency as well as fighting money laundering and terrorism funding.