Hungary quits the Open Government Partnership in a huff

Yesterday the Associated Press reported the Hungarian government’s decision to quit the Open Government Partnership (OGP), “a multilateral initiative that aims to secure concrete commitments from governments to promote transparency, empower citizens, fight corruption, and harness new technologies to strengthen governance.”

OGP was formally launched on September 20, 2011, when the eight founding governments (Brazil, Norway, the Philippines, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and the United States) endorsed OGP’s Declaration and announced their countries’ action plans. Since 2011, 62 other countries joined, including Hungary, which signed its letter of intent on July 10, 2012. In this letter of intent the Orbán government declared that “it attached the utmost importance to cooperation with civil organizations.” It was the Ministry of Public Administration and Justice under Tibor Navracsics that represented the Hungarian government in this particular undertaking, which claimed at the time that “it supports the effective implementation of the OGP commitments.” It also promised “in person consultations with the civil organizations and experts regularly on a monthly basis.”

These were the promises, but according to the recollections of the participants, after the initial good working relations “the process started to slow down as the document reached the political level.” The final commitments were vague and greatly weakened. By 2014 it was clear that the Hungarian government’s “sole purpose with its membership was the opportunity to communicate its devotion to open government” to the international community.

Hungary is the second country whose government is not ready to abide by guidelines set by the Steering Committee of OGP and endorsed by them. The first country to leave OGP was Putin’s Russia, which had joined the organization in April 2012. A year later, on May 17, 2013, the Russian government informed the group of its decision to leave. Russia’s participation in this group was dubious from the very beginning, but there were other countries whose commitments to the ideals of OGP were also questionable. OGP acknowledged in February 2014 that Lithuania, Malta, and Turkey had failed to meet their commitments as members of the Open Government Partnership. Warnings were issued to these three states. In addition, the Steering Committee redefined standards for suspending members. “Two warnings in a row would trigger a discussion about continued membership of OGP countries” that create hostile environments for civil society.

By October 2014 new rules were in place that made suspension of membership practically automatic if any country limits the freedom of information; limits the activities of civic groups; favors civic groups attached in some way to the government; limits the freedom of expression and freedom of assembly; limits freedom of the press, independence of the media, or engages in the intimidation of media owners. 444.hu’s eagle-eyed reporters noted the OGP’s tightened rules for suspension, adding that they are tailor-made for Viktor Orbán’s Hungary.

The first victim of the new suspension rules was Azerbaijan. In March 2016 the Criteria and Standards Subcommittee recommended the move because “such constraints are evident in the laws on grants, non-governmental organizations, incarceration of NGO activists and journalists” that would precipitate “OGP’s response policy.” At that time, it was noted, “similar NGO complaints that the Hungarian government is restricting civil society remain under consideration.” In addition, Turkey was suspended in September 2016 because it had failed to deliver a National Action Plan since 2014.

Prior to this time the Orbán government had begun a war against Hungarian nongovernmental groups, financed mostly by the Norway Grants but also by the Soros Foundation. The government accused these NGOs of representing foreign interests and proceeded to raid their offices. At that point four leaders of NGOs decided to follow their colleagues in Azerbaijan and launch a formal complaint against the Orbán government. Fanny Hidvégi of the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union, Sándor Léderer of K-Monitor Watchdog for Public Funds, Miklós Ligeti of Transparency International Hungary, and Júlia Keserű of the Sunlight Foundation wrote a letter to the members of the OGP Steering Committee. The letter is available on the internet.

After considering the complaints submitted by Hungarian NGO leaders, OGP proposed several remedies that the Orbán government should adopt. It suggested the establishment of a Permanent Dialogues Mechanism (PDM) within sixty days that would ensure the participation of the relevant government agencies and interested civil society organizations. What must have especially irritated the Orbán government was that “all members of the public will be kept informed about all core aspects of the national OGP process—and especially know well in advance … about the key moments to provide inputs and discuss priorities.” OGP demanded five so-called Smart Recommendations that the Orbán government would never accept: monitoring of public disclosure practices of local government and state-owned enterprises; reviewing party and campaign financing regulations; revising the freedom of information regulations; revising regulations on classified information; and launching e-procurement. For easy access to this document, I am attaching it in full at the end of this post.

After reading these “recommendations” I’m not at all surprised that the Orbán government accepted the odium of withdrawal. A semi-autocratic, illiberal government of the kind that exists in Hungary today would never agree to such demands.

So, let’s see how the official government media explained the decision. Magyar Idők justified the Hungarian decision by citing OGP’s “one-sided criticism” of the Orbán government based on the unfair accusations of “civilians financed by George Soros.” These NGOs serve foreign interests and have been spreading false stories about the Hungarian government. Transparency International and TASZ, the Hungarian equivalent of the Civil Liberties Union, had complained to the organization about the Orbán government already in October 2012, shortly after Hungary joined OGP. In January 2013 K-Monitor allied with TASZ and TI in a new attack. And here was the latest one. It was high time to quit this unfair organization.

In the opinion of Szilárd Németh, deputy chairman of Fidesz, Hungary’s abandonment of the organization “actually sheds a very positive light on us because we do not want to participate in an organization where members carry on a conversation among themselves after which they single out somebody whom they are trying to keep at bay with one-sided reports, distortions of facts, with documents prepared by phony civil organizations mostly financed by George Soros.” It was a good decision, “a lovely gift for the time when they can get together again and they can nod against Hungary.” Németh is referring to the Open Government Global Summit, which is being held at this very moment in Paris.

The opposition’s interpretation of the move was predictable. They pointed out that the Orbán government no longer cares what the world thinks of it because surely, following in Russia’s footsteps, they are practically admitting that they are corrupt to the core. Zsolt Gréczy, DK’s spokesman, said that Hungary’s eventual suspension from the organization was inevitable. But the country’s withdrawal from the organization a day before the beginning of the Global Summit was unnecessary in that Hungary was not facing suspension at this time. The demands the organization made on the Orbán government, however, were more than the “proud Magyar” could stomach.

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December 8, 2016
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bimbi
Guest

Nemeth Szilard and F.M. Szijjarto are Orban stooges mouthing quickly-assembled lies for public consumption. They (and he) are so predictable. And, of course, Orban doesn’t want to be called out on the brazen corruption, his dictatorial democracy, the harassment of civil organizations, the iron control of the media, the failed education system, the falsehoods over Orban’s famous referendum, Rogan’s personal enrichment by selling Hungarian residencies – the list goes on and on and on.

When will Hungary be free of these leeches? When will Hungary be free?

Bowen
Guest

Orban has already been called out on the harrassment of civil organisations, the failed education system, etc., etc. Several times. He doesn’t care. And nor, it seems, do a significant number of Hungarians.

bimbi
Guest

@Bowen, 5:12 a.m.

Sadly, you are right. Orban has Hungarians by the “short and curlies” in so far as most of them are not even informed of these outrages (radio, TV, papers? F’get ‘em). The reason he (and Putyin) have beaten such a hasty retreat from the Open Government Partnership is that he would have been confronted with his policies and would have had to give a response (No b-s, please Viktor). Unable to face that humiliation of actually giving account of his illiberalism and secrecy, he chose the only way out – “I am not going to play with you any more” – like the chicken-shit football player he is. Then comes the prosperous parade of tossers/spokespersons who mouth out a new set of lies (mostly for internal consumption). One wonders that they could have been so naïve as to join in the first place, giving their hand-on-heart pious commitment to adhere to the policy directions of the OGP.

So, when is Hungary going to be free of these blood-sucking leeches?

e-1956
Guest

I would call the orbans, causcescus etc. victims, pitiful hostages of the moscow plotted active measures.

Let us deal with the real operators of the worldwide plots.

bimbi
Guest

@ e-1956, 7:27 a.m.

You can please yourself, but unfortunately, Orban and his mafia are in control right here, right now. You can’t shift the blame elsewhere with plausibility.

e-1956
Guest

I am not alone. Just ask petofi.
While many others are still in the middle of a sleeping beauty dream.
I invite everyone to review history. It has started with the czarist plots, by spreading and encouraging anarchy in the Western European.
The bolsheviks picked up the baton seamlessly, and added the marxist slogans to the active measures. Andropov peaked in the process.
Today, it is not orban, but the few muslims who became their most weaponized hostages.
Let us see who has sharper vision in detecting these plots.

Observer
Guest

E-1956
Pls dont degrade yourself to the level of the cheap trolls. The majority of Hungs elected Orbán in 2010 without any Russian connection and still support the most corrupt regime in modern Hung history.
The explanation is pretty simple and conventional: Magyar ugar (backward Hungary).
Just as your assertion is so traditional: blame everyone and everything else.

Guest

“Andy” with the many names is playing the old Hungarian game:

It’s always someone else’s fault!

I just don’t get it – really sad!

PS and not too much OT:

I’ve asked him several times to not switch names constantly – but he just can’t help it, another typical Hungarian problem …

Shaha Razaha
Guest

This whole blog is about blaming Hungarians for every ill that has befallen the whining class. Pot. Kettle.

Shaha Razaha
Guest

Since Orban is supported by a vast majority of Hungarians, by “leeches” I assume you mean Hungarians. So, prey tell, what is your ethnicity, exactly?

Istvan
Guest
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has given the Open Government Partnership (OGP) $700,000 from July 2014 to June 2016. In my opinion it is highly possible the incoming Trump administration will move to cut off this funding completely. In general the OGP is seen by the nationalist right in the USA as not promoting our global interests and as a Sorros left wing organization. The Open Society Foundation is one of the largest contributors to the OGP. Steve Bannon one of Trump’s key advisors when he ran Breitbart News launched numerous attacks on Sorros see http://mediamatters.org/blog/2016/11/28/breitbart-uses-nazi-inspired-anti-semitic-rhetoric-george-soros-attack/214641 I think Hungary’s withdrawal from OGP is not totally unrelated to the Trump victory and the likeliness that many US State Department programs promoting “democracy” around the world will be eliminated. I find it interesting that Eva’s essay completely avoids discussing that possibility. Those of us in the USA have to come to grips with what a Trump foreign policy based primarily on US national economic interests and not promotion of ideas of global democracy looks like when they contradict what the right wing considers to be those interests. There is fight brewing over how Russia fits into those interests as… Read more »
Member

Not an OT at all: two old-timer Sens. Cardin and McCain managed to include the Global Magnitsky Act to the must pass Annual NDAA bill. Smart! This news is spreading like fire: http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-rights-congress-magnitsky-idUSKBN13X2AH

Istvan
Guest
S.284 which is the revised Magnisty Act https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/senate-bill/284 that is being referenced his very dependent on the President of the United States. The specific section I am discussing reads as follows: “The President shall, after receiving a request from the chairperson and ranking member of one of the appropriate congressional committees with respect to whether a foreign person has engaged in a prohibited activity: • determine if the person has engaged in such an activity; and • report to the chairperson and ranking member whether or not the President imposed or intends to impose specified sanctions against the person. Sanctions shall not apply to an individual as necessary for law enforcement purposes, or to comply with the Agreement between the United Nations (U.N.) and the United States regarding the U.N. Headquarters or other applicable international obligations of the United States. The President may terminate sanctions under specified conditions.” President Trump given these powers can simply determine that any specific Russian did not engage in the activity claimed at his sole determination and Congress under the Act has no right to overrule him. The Act is meaningless unless Trump wants to use it against a particular nation and its leaders. So… Read more »
Member

Istvan@ in part we are in agreement. Please recall the difficult talks between the Administration and Congress on conditions of introducing the original bill. Remember, even Obama was against that bill at the beginning because it created (unnecessary?) tension with Russia and kept the President in account for his decisions (or indecisions). That’s why its smart and its not entirely an external political tool, as Cardin and McCain claimed it was. And that is the substance. Even for Trumpet I would not be an easy task to undo this law.
I would not mix in the UN/ NY story because it is a totally different issue.

Shaha Razaha
Guest

The number one enemy of all Americans, Hungarians and many, many others, is Soros and his spawn. Russia and China are distant seconds. Hell, Soros might be the one person who unites the US, Hungary with North Korea – a real bridge builder.

Ferenc
Guest

For who is interested in the whole OGP-Hungary story can be found at http://www.opengovpartnership.org/how-it-works/response-policy (find separate row about HU in table with links to all related documents).

In the 2015.July report by the four complaining NGO’s I found the following quote (2014.Oct.25, by Hungary’s Foreign Ministry)
:
“the Hungarian people are a freedomloving people, and would not tolerate any restrictions on their freedom.”

So when oh when will the Hungarian people act accordingly and kick the freedom reducing OV/Fidesz bunch out of office.

Istvan
Guest

Those documents pretty much said it all about Hungary and open government. Thanks for the links.

Istvan
Guest

A very interesting article in Magyar Nemzet for those who read Hungarian http://mno.hu/kulfold/ozonlenek-az-amerikai-katonak-magyarorszagra-1375650 on the US Army and Hungary.

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