Hungary's restrictions on civil society groups are "discriminatory and unjustified", Court of Justice rules


The Court of Justice of the EU has ruled that restrictions imposed by Hungary on civil society organisations - which require registration, declaration and publication for certain categories of groups receiving funds from abroad - are "discriminatory and unjustified", on the grounds that they restrict the free movement of capital and unjustifably impunge upon the fundamental rights to privacy, data protection and freedom of association.

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CJEU press release: The restrictions imposed by Hungary on the financing of civil organisations by persons established outside that Member State do not comply with EU law (pdf):

"In the judgment in Commission v Hungary (Transparency of associations) (C-78/18), delivered on 18 June 2020, the Grand Chamber of the Court of Justice upheld the action for failure to fulfil obligations brought by the European Commission against that Member State. The Court held that, by imposing obligations of registration, declaration and publication on certain categories of civil society organisations directly or indirectly receiving support from abroad exceeding a certain threshold and providing for the possibility of applying penalties to organisations that do not comply with those obligations, Hungary had introduced discriminatory and unjustified restrictions with regard to both the organisations at issue and the persons granting them such support. Those restrictions run contrary to the obligations on Member States in respect of the free movement of capital laid down in Article 63 TFEU and to Articles 7, 8 and 12 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (‘the Charter’), on the right to respect for private and family life, the right to the protection of personal data and the right to freedom of association."

Judgment: Case C‑78/18 (pdf) and available at Eur-lex (link)

The case was brought by the European Commission, which has taken a series of faltering steps against the Hungarian government's crackdown on basic freedoms in recent years.

See also: The European Court of Justice rules in favor of the NGOs (Hungarian Spectrum, link)

What was the Hungarian government’s reaction to the news, which most likely was not entirely unexpected? Justice Minister Judit Varga was the first to respond, yesterday, making the stunning announcement to MTI that “the government is committed to ensuring the transparency of non-governmental organizations,” which was the original objective of the Hungarian law, whose “legality was confirmed by today’s verdict of the court.” So, Hungary actually won the case. This morning Viktor Orbán gave a more elaborate explanation in his radio interview.

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