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EC to launch infringement procedure against Hungary over sovereignty protection law

The European Commission has sent a letter of formal notice to Hungary, launching an infringement procedure over the country's Sovereignty Protection Act. In a press release on the February infringement package, the EC said the law, adopted on December 12 and in force since December 22, 2023, breached EU law.

The statement noted that the law established the Sovereignty Protection Office, “tasked with investigating specific activities carried out in the interest of another State or a foreign body, organisation or natural person, if they are likely to violate or jeopardise the sovereignty of Hungary; and organisations whose activities using foreign funding may influence the outcome of elections or the will of voters.”

Further, the law contains provisions and amendments to already existing legislation “that prohibit candidates, political parties and associations participating in elections from using foreign funding to influence or attempt to influence the will of voters for the elections in question, and to punish under criminal law the use of foreign funding in the context of elections,” the EC said.

After a “thorough assessment”, the EC said it found the law to be in violation of several EU laws, “among others the democratic values of the Union; the principle of democracy and the electoral rights of EU citizens; several fundamental rights enshrined in the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, such as the right to respect for private and family life, the right to protection of personal data, the freedom of expression and information, the freedom of association, the electoral rights of EU citizens, the right to an effective remedy and to a fair trial, the privilege against self-incrimination and the legal professional privilege; the requirements of EU law relating to data protection and several rules applicable to the internal market.”

Hungary has two months to reply to the letter of formal notice. Should it not address the issues listed in the letter, the EC may step up the procedure by sending a reasoned opinion.

Kovacs: Sovereignty law ‘under attack’ because it aims to prevent foreign influence

Brussels “and the owners of the dollar left are attacking” Hungary’s Sovereignty Protection Act because it is aimed at preventing foreign influence in Hungary’s affairs “via the Soros-affiliated rolling dollars”, the state secretary for international communication and relations said on Wednesday.

Zoltan Kovacs said in a post on Facebook that it was a “fact” that “the dollar left’s top contributor” in the 2022 general election campaign had been US financier George Soros.

He noted that the Sovereignty Protection Act criminalises the acceptance of foreign campaign donations.

The state secretary said the government was standing by the law, as 98 percent of the respondents to the last National Consultation public survey had expressed agreement with the legislation.

In a statement, ruling Fidesz said “we are not even surprised” that “Brussels does not like it that the Sovereignty Protection Act has criminalised the acceptance of foreign campaign financing”.

“The [Hungarian] left took the unprecedented step in the spring of 2022 of accepting dollars, euros and pounds from abroad for their [general election] campaign and it is not known ever since what they had promised in exchange,” the party said.

“It is political corruption, foreign influence in Hungarian elections and an unlawful attack on Hungary’s sovereignty,” it said.

The party reiterated its position of calling for tightening the rules on attempted foreign influence, asserting that “only the Hungarian people are entitled to decide about Hungary’s future”.


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