“Observer”: The Stop Soros bills–Hopefully only propaganda and nonsense

On 18 January the Hungarian government revealed its “Stop Soros​”’ package of three bills (SSB) targeting civil organizations “supporting illegal immigration:

–  Law on the social responsibility of organizations supporting illegal migration;
–  Law on immigration financing duty;
–  Law on immigration restraint order.

The disgraceful act made news around the world and sparked wide spread criticism from Al Jazeera and Bloomberg to Reuters and Yahoo and the alphabet in between.

There have been many bits of news and comments, which I would like to summarize for Hungarian Spectrum  here, including some parts of the SSB itself (in the unofficial English translation) and in Hungarian.

The Propaganda

The SSB package was tabled by the Interior Minister, but contrary to constitutional law, the so-called public debate is being managed by Antal Rogán’s “propaganda ministry,” which in the meantime is flooding the country with another tsunami of Stop Soros posters.

The preambles, descriptions, and justifications of the SSB repeat many of the government propaganda panels, the language of the preamble is uncannily reminiscent of the 1960s communist one: “The state has a duty to ensure the survival of the nation and to create a solid basis for future generations. It is the primary obligation and also the right of the Hungarian state to protect its citizens and our national culture. Recognizing the emergency, the Hungarian government has spent HUF 270 billion* from the budget to stop immigration.” ( The original budget for the fence was set at 20 billion.)

“Soros would resettle millions from Africa and the Middle East”

That is followed by another communist turn – the listing of the nefarious and damaging activities carried out by “the enemies within,” to use the old cliché, against the state, including “propaganda,” as any dissenting opinion or fact-finding report is labeled. “Any activity intended to promote illegal immigration and to intensify the migratory pressure is against Hungarian state interest and also causes quantifiable damage to the budget. The migration propaganda assists smuggling organizations and puts illegal border-crossers … at risk. Therefore a regulation is needed that identifies organizations that support migration and takes action against persons who jeopardize national security.”

The government of course claims that it is responding to the call by the people, all the people, one is led to believe: “The creation of the legislative package has been authorized by the citizens of Hungary: 98% of participants in the referendum clearly rejected the mandatory quota and 2.3 million people expressed their clear opinion in the national consultation on the Soros Plan.”

The numbers are coming from the government “consultation” process, which, as with most acts of the Orbán regime, is non-transparent and without outside control or scrutiny. Even access to the returned forms was denied, save for the one-hour-for-three-sites granted to Ákos Hadházy, who came out convinced that the numbers were grossly exaggerated. The government stalled for weeks before coming up with a figure close to that of the Fid voters’ number, yet “based on these results, Hungarians unanimously demand strong action against illegal immigration and promote strengthened protection of the borders instead of settling [migrants in the country].”

For those who know the Stalinist times, the language is pretty poignant – i.e. the government obliged “the people” with the SSB, but according to Antal Rogán the people are actually calling for even stronger measures, as it transpires from the more than 400 suggestions his office has received.

The Legal Nonsense

Both the text and the provisions of the SSB exhibit signs of a slapdash job hatched at the “Propaganda Ministry,” where only the desired effects are clear.

Act on the social responsibility of organizations supporting illegal migration*

Sec.1: “… an association and foundation seated and registered in Hungary that sponsors the illegal entry, relocation and residence of a third-country national … directly or indirectly from financial or property benefits originating from abroad shall be qualified as an organization supporting illegal migration.” [OSIM]

There are some fundamental legal problems from the very start here – who and at which point in time an entity qualifies as an OSIM, what is the redress/appeal against such a designation. It’s a gaping legal hole which leaves the whole SSB hanging in the air.

Sec.2.1 stipulates an OSIM “is obliged to notify” the court, but this is after the entity has been qualified as an OSIM. In view of this, the widespread criticism of the act for obliging entities to report their own violations of the law is on shaky grounds, which I’m not going to pursue.

The fact that only associations and foundations are included, but not companies or other legal entities, indicates the intention to target the NGOs, violating the principle of equality before the law. The other issue is the bizarre category of entity supporting an illegal activity. Under western law illegal activities are prevented and restricted, offending entities are punished, e.g. by fines, placing the entity under management or liquidation, but there is no example of classifying them as functioning law breakers.

Sec. 2 uses phrases like “OSIM that supports in any other way,” “to facilitate the unlawful,” “sponsors or otherwise supports” which make for an extremely broad scope, allowing for the incrimination of an entity for one of its members handing out a bottle of water; note the interpretation of the preamble that “The migration propaganda assists smuggling organizations,” making all participants accomplices.

Sec. 3  stipulates that if a foreign funded organization supports in any way other Hungarian entities, such support “shall be qualified as indirect financial or property benefits deriving from abroad” i.e., making the local organization also foreign funded. Since there are no limits on how far eventual assistance will carry the “curse,” numerous entities co-operating in other matters can be drawn into the foreign-funded NGOs category with its implications under the earlier law on these.

How about Sec 2.4 prescribing that an OSIM post “ its notification pursuant to Section (1) on the website pursuant to Section 2(5)-(6) of the Transparency Act and [illetve] in the media” ?! This unique, ham-fisted attempt to force NGOs to publicly “humiliate” themselves leaves numerous questions open: in what media, in what format, for how long, at whose expense, etc. (The Hungarian “illetve” can only mean “and” here.)

According to Sec 5.2, “If the OSIM fails to meet its obligations contained in the prosecutor’s notice, the prosecutor may initiate at the registration court that a fine be imposed in double the amount of the financial benefit originating from abroad.” This provision mixes the criminal law under which the prosecution office operates with the administrative law regulating the Registration Court.

Act on the immigration financing duty

The same problem of mixing different kinds of law arises in this act as well, where the tax office is to collect (Sec.6) a duty on the basis of Sec. 2:  “The  organization supporting illegal migration is obliged to pay an immigration financing duty if…” Here we also have the absurd concept of an entity being categorized as an OSIM and then punished by a regular duty instead of being punished for the particular illegal act. And only if the entity received benefits from abroad, which again violates the principle of equality before the law.

Act on immigration restraining orders

There is some misunderstanding of this act, I’m afraid,  since it has been widely condemned for introducing an administrative provision to restrict the movement of Hungarians as well, e.g., illustrated by the example of an absurd 8 km zone around the Vigadó border entry point on the Danube in the center of Budapest. (The misinterpretation may have come from  Sec.2.a which refers to “ a member of Parliament” in the Hungarian text without specifying which parliament.)

All of the elements of the act consistently refer only to “aliens…[or] third country nationals,” presumably non-EU citizens:

According to sec. 1 regarding “third-country nationals, in order to conduct alien police procedures in an unhindered manner, the minister in charge of immigration and refugee affairs … may ban any person whose residence in Hungary is contrary to Hungary’s national security interests or who poses a danger to the public interest, from the frontiers or from within an 8-kilometer zone of the frontier marks of the external borders.”

The above would still include people with resident status in Hungary, like NGO employees or representatives, journalists, activists or tourists who otherwise would be difficult to handle or intimidate (unlike the local ones, as the government may have assumed).

There are some drastic provisions restricting the appeal/judicial recourse in sec. 5.3.  “An immigration restraining order may be challenged on account of a breach of the essential rules of the procedure in a public administrative lawsuit within eight days.”  That is, the material facts and the judgment of the minister are incontestable. It should be recalled that the Orbán government has been pushing for the creation of a separate administrative courts system. On top of this there is the provision that “provisional measures of legal protection are not available in the lawsuit,” i.e. the judge cannot change the detention, confiscation, etc. measures taken until the end of the process.

It is almost laughable to read Sec. 3 mentioning “the period of the crisis situation caused by mass migration,” which the government still keeps in force even though there have been almost no migrants at the borders for a year now.

Impact on the NGO sector

The SSB follows on the heels of the 2017 Act LXXVI NGO Law on foreign-funded  organizations, which the European Commission recently contested in the European Court of Justice, and emphasizes the general strategy to eliminate all independent  institutions, in this case the NGOs –the real goal of the huge and hysterical government campaign, along with the scare mongering – vote winning double whammy.

The TASZ (Civic Liberties Union) has summarized the expected impact very well:  “Following up on the 2017 NGO Law on foreign-funded organizations, the latest draft laws are potentially lethal blows to civil society in Hungary: their novelty is that the threat is now existential and also targets individuals. Should the proposals be adopted in spring 2018 without major changes, they will cause grave and irreparable damage to Hungarian civil society. By the end of 2018, a number of NGOs will be unable to function or carry out core work due to five direct and imminent threats to their mission.

I. Funding for essential services will be cut and driven away

  1. All foreign donors who directly or indirectly give funds to targeted Hungarian NGOs should calculate losses, as their funds will be partly (25% tax) or fully (200% fine) seized by the government;
  2. The risk of the government taxing funding in an arbitrary manner could make yet unaffected donors pull away from funding civil society in Hungary;
  3. Domestic funding for the work of the civil sector is largely available from public funds administered by national or local government agencies, which is already politically conditioned and discourages public advocacy or exposing faulty or inefficient public services.

II. Trust in civil society and willingness to seek assistance will decline

  1. Smear-campaigns, compliance procedures and investigations will further stigmatize and discredit NGOs by accusing them of performing illegal activities;
  2. Authorities would gain access to the data of all persons working for, contracted by or receiving assistance from NGOs, thus intimidating individuals from supporting, working for or seeking help from them;
  3. An estimated 80-85% of about 900-1,000 prominent NGOs risk losing public benefit status, i.e. tax-free status and other advantages. This will dramatically raise costs for NGOs and for clients, who will have to pay taxes after the value of free services/assistance (15% personal income tax + 19.5% health care tax).

III. Sanction procedures and targeted tax investigations drain and divert NGO resources

  1. NGOs that have refused to register under the 2017 Law on foreign-funded NGOs can expect to face legal procedures for non-compliance once they publish their annual financial reports at the end of May 2018. These procedures are likely to roll out during the summer and will further aggravate the pressure.
  2. Politically-motivated tax investigations could pave the way for repressive criminal prosecutions against NGO leaders and human rights defenders.

IV. Threatened by enhanced government surveillance measures, NGOs will be effectively silenced

  1. Human rights defenders who work with targeted organizations could be declared a national security risk and be subjected to arbitrary and unlawful restrictions on their freedom of movement;
  2. NGOs will have to assume their work and staff are being monitored by intelligence services, pressuring them into self-censorship and impacting their families;
  3. Stigmatizing civic groups and individuals as national security risks will have a chilling effect on other groups, supporters and clients by sending a clear message that at any point in time they could become targets as well.

V. Serious risk of ‘mimicry effect’ by potential Europe-wide copying of worst practices related to shrinking civic space l. The proposed laws could serve as a model within the EU to thwart the valuable work of civil society organizations that fight for the respect of human rights in the European Union, a danger that the EU Fundamental Rights Agency has recently underlined.”

The conclusion is not difficult to arrive at: “The recently announced anti-civil organization bill is deceitful, arbitrary and harmful. It is deceitful because it creates the appearance that its purpose is to stop illegal immigration, while in reality it wants to crush the entire civil society. It is arbitrary because the government seeks to determine what would constitute a problem for the people and who is entitled to solve it. In a democracy, this kind of restriction is unacceptable. Finally, the new act is harmful because removing public-interest status from  organizations that receive a majority of foreign support could result in all Hungarian citizens being deprived of free civil assistance.”

*The quoted passages are taken from the Hungarian Helsinki Committee’s unofficial translation of the Stop Soros laws.

January 9, 2018
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sunyilo12
Member

We can see similar plot-presentations here in the US, too. The difference being, here they belong to WWE (check wwe.com if you don’t know what I mean) and other show businesses – not to legislation. True, this might be deeply lamented by Donald Trump…

Andy'babe'
Guest
I was shocked by the sight – live in front of my eyes – of the STOP SOROS POSTER imaged in this article about the millions of refugees to be admitted because of the “Soros Plan”… Obviosly the statement will mean, in the minds of an -the- average anti-immigrant Hungarian that the Orban Poster is talking to, of the forcing of a whole million foreigners straight into tiny Hungary. The fake image is frightening and exhausts the vastest and most evil limits of all possibilities in the mind of a clear-thinking individual… I also received in the past 5 days a ‘personal’, signed letter from the Prime Minister of Hungary, V. Orbán, on golden government stationery (it was the ‘real thing’ referring as principal topic the “Soros Plan” in quotation marks. No such plan has ever eisted ir actual fact. Or anything remotely near it… The fear-mongering is beyond anything a person living abroad can imagine !!! It brings back memories of the 1940s crude and evil distortions of all reality. WATCH OUT and do not be FOOLED (yes, any of us can be fooled) by the evil anti-sanity propaganda !!!!!! We have reached ever lower levels of mind manipulation… Read more »
Farkas
Guest

It would seem that it is 1938 redux in Hungary these days. Hungarians as a group never seem to learn from their history. In fact, they seem utterly incapable of learning. Instead, they desperately cling to mendacious delusions, and their chosen leadership is first and foremost in the business of brainwashing, constantly creating more and more mendacity and delusions all the time, eagerly lapped up by the great unwashed and most “Christian” “intellectuals” alike. We are talking here about a mentally severely challenged people, suffering from acute chronic retardation.

wrfree
Guest

On the 30’s..we’re baaaaaacccccccckkkkkk….

Remark by US ambassador to Russia Joseph Davies providing the prelude to his memoir translated to the 1943 film ‘Mission to Moscow’ which has been discredited as a presentation of ‘totalitarian propaganda’ in service of the Russian Stalinist state:

‘No leaders of a nation have been so misrepresented and misunderstood as those in the Soviet government during those critical years between the two world wars.”

Stalin appeared to work his magic on Ambassador Davies as he looked as if he came away believing Uncle Joe was the nicest man around who showed him the ‘city’.

Point to ponder in the current Magyar ‘spin’ in the telling and dissemination of false tales. It is as if absolutely nothing now can be taken at face value with the double-speak of ‘ there is always another story’ Kovacs and Rogan.

dos929
Guest

Is there still a question in the minds of any of the ‘normal’ people anywhere who are familiar with the Hungarian scene that this is a Fascist regime of the first order in the heart of Europe?

Farkas
Guest

I think that Neo-Fascist would be a more accurate descriptor.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neo-fascism

Liberal democracies in Western Europe are just as hopelessly reluctant to resist and condemn the rise and rise of Orbán-driven Hungarian Neo-Fascism today, as they were to resist and condemn the rise and rise of Italian Fascism and German Nazism nine decades ago. The only thing that West European liberal democracies got for all their dithering was the catastrophe of WW2.

Hungary today is only small potatoes of course. But the rot is well and truly starting there, and if many others would start seriously following in the steps of Orbán, that would spell the end of EU, with all the catastrophic consequences that are not too difficult to imagine.

'56
Guest

A very smart voice was heard in 2010, when Miklos Gimes who lives in the Switzerland published the results of his interviews under the title of Gulash Fascism.

All his readers were ahead. His words have become truth.

Other innocent observers stopped at the illiberal adjective.

I think the Hungarian regime is dangerous, and is not afraid to attack Western Europe and its own people.

Guest

And back to reality:
My wife just read that flour will get 25% more expensive from March, and then of course the price of bread will rise too …
It must be Soros’s fault!

No she said, O wants to build another stadium …
That’s Hungary …

wrfree
Guest

Re: ‘That’s Hungary

Joketime to let out some of the bad gas…

What’s the name of the only newspaper in illiberal Magyarorszag?

‘Propaganda’

Just saying… The old ‘communist’ jokes work really well when you paraphrase them.😎 The name’s changed yes but it looks ‘same old same old’. Old is always new again in Magyarorszag. It never seems to go out of style.

Jean P
Guest

“My wife just read that flour will get 25% more expensive from March..”

Of course it is Soros’s fault. He has cornered the flour market. From now on this is the truth.

bimbi
Guest

ORBAN AND ROGAN. BOTH THIEVES. BOTH LIARS.

Guest

I’m wondering what people in the future will think about this display of idiocies -will they call it fascist or do we need a new term?
Much of it reminds me of “communist” times – enemies of the people …
It’s a kind of paranoia to see enemies evrywhe.re!

OSIM is the craziest defintion I’ve seen in a long time.

PS:

This will hurt Hungary’s reputation all over the world, it’s now on the level of North Korea (or Albania in those days long ago …)

bimbi
Guest

“…HOPEFULLY ONLY PROPAGANDA AND NONSENSE”

I have no idea what these words in the title of the blog entry mean. Do they express the author’s (or anyone else’s) wishful thinking? Please tell us.

What follows is a summary of the essentials of a poisonous, filthy and discriminatory law whose clear central purpose is to cripple (fatally but slowly) the NGOs operating in the humanitarian field in Hungary today. This mimics the tactics of Putyin in Russia, but without Putyin’s favourite admixture of murder through poison, beatings, hammer attacks or knifings.

One can play with oneself trying to decide on what new or old name to assign to Orban’s government (as commenters do above) but it is clear, surely, that this new law has all the marks of the unbalanced and frantic brain of Viktor Orban, still desperate for power still desperate to ensure another “election triumph”.

We know that Orban knows he can play the EU along with his “suzerainty” defence and we ask how long the sleeping electorate of Hungary, lulled by Orban’s magic spell of “illegal immigrants”, will tolerate the rape and pillage of its country and its patrimony by the current ruling autocrat and his willing helpers?

Observer
Guest

Bimbi
I thoght this package is legally so deficient that it can’t be implemented and will remain the piece of propaganda and nonsense that it is.

bimbi
Guest

OK, I note your optimistic view. However, these new “laws” offer too much and too tempting an opportunity for the Orban government to prosecute NGOs and their workers (and ultimately close them down). Harassment through the “law”. It stinks.

Observer
Guest

bimbi
My view is not optimistic, just in its current form/wording this hackwork cannot be implemented as a legal act. The bill can be redrafted at any time, e.g. after the election the Organ regime will complete the fascist state structure, incl passing a technically improved version of the SSB or will fight to stay out of prison.

Member

” have no idea what these words in the title of the blog entry mean. Do they express the author’s (or anyone else’s) wishful thinking? Please tell us.”

I am not speaking on behalf of the author but what I will say is that for most of the NGOs their day to day operations continue as before.

Two reasons:
1/This law, compiled by the Fidesz “smart (sic) lawyers” relies on self-reporting…”Excuse me Mr Fascist Dictator but I wish to out myself as an enemy of the Hungarian people and a facilitator of illegal immigration.”. This self-reporting won’t happen.
2. The NGOs, despite the “latte-drinking, wishywashy, gutless liberals” image, stand up to the Fidesz thugs. Stand up to the bullying scum and their (Fidesz) power then suddenly and magically becomes less apparent. A lesson for the rest of the apathetic and/or cowardly nation.

bimbi
Guest

@D7Democrat, 8:00 a.m.

I would be happy to agree with your #2. The few NGO people I met struck me as both determined and committed. As to your #1, I have seen no reluctance on the part of Prosecutorial Puppet Polt to pursue perceived enemies of Orban irrespective of the shaky legal nature of their “laws”. The money (OUR money, alas) is in the g’ment’s pocket and they use it to make trouble for people by prosecuting, appealing and finally ignoring verdicts.

'56
Guest

OSIM = Open Source Information Management????

Observer
Guest

In the post OSIM stands for: organisation supporting illegal migration, the entities the law applies to.

wrfree
Guest

After reading…now I understand why the generations living with prevarication and confusion appear to acquiesce to some sort of applied mental inertia the tawdry and debased values of poisonous leadership.
Like deer at night caught in the lights.

‘Piety and fear,
Religion to the gods, peace, justice, truth,
Domestic awe, night-rest, and neighbourhood,
Instruction, manners, mysteries, and trades,
Degrees, observances, customs and laws,
Decline to your confounding contraries
And let confusion live’.

‘Lawless are they who make their will the law’.

Will Shakespeare… The Bard

Guest

A bit OT but maybe relevant:
We’ve often discussed here parallels between Trump and O and I found an interesting report on Trump’s followers which might also be valid for O’s followers:
Unsurprisingly, Breitbart News and InfoWars were deemed by the study to be “especially sympathetic to Trump and his administration,” along with the National Review, Hannity.com, the site of Fox News talk show host Sean Hannity, and the New York Daily News. All routinely publish misleading news, conspiracy theories and outright falsehoods that are propagated furiously by Trump supporters:

The report also concluded that the “facts” reported by far right sites shared by Trump supporters are so detached from reality that it makes dialogue with them completely impossible:
https://thedailybanter.com/2018/02/study-shows-trump-supporters-now-basically-unreachable/
PS: Did you know that “America First!” is a KKK-slogan?
https://www.snopes.com/america-first-ku-klux-klan-slogan/

wegan
Guest

The situation is deadly serious but this is a funny comic strip in Hungarian.

http://csehszlovakkem.tumblr.com/post/170689719712

wrfree
Guest

OT: Magyarorszag and Suleiman the Magnificent

It appears Magyar archaeologists digging near a small village near Szigetvar noted that they found red sandstone blocks in a wine cellar which appear to be part of the mausoleum of Suleiman the Magnificent. They believe they are the ruins of ‘Turbek’ which was a Muslim pilgrimage destination on ground where Suleiman died in 1566 during the battle of Szigetvar.

Archaeologists noted that Turbek has great symbolism as it was on the border of Ottoman and Habsburg lands. It was an expression of ‘dar al Islam’ which signified land under Muslim rule and where Islamic law prevailed. It was also apparently an ‘important center of Islamic mysticism’ in the region.

Not much remains , only 15 inches of building foundation, as the Habsburgs after defeating the Ottomans destroyed whatever was left behind in the retreat. But in the light of modern events and considering Magyar attitudes ancient shrines of a designated enemy can just be a heap of trouble coming out of the vineyards. Wine or ruins..sometimes both can bring on headaches.

tappanch
Guest

“As West Fears the Rise of Autocrats, Hungary Shows What’s Possible”

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/10/world/europe/hungary-orban-democracy-far-right.html

Orban combines “crony capitalism and far-right rhetoric with a single-party political culture. He has done this even as Hungary remains a member of the European Union and receives billions of dollars in funding from the bloc. European Union officials did little as Mr. Orban transformed Hungary into what he calls an “illiberal democracy.””