Parliament votes to set up Sovereignty Protection Office
The bill submitted by ruling party MPs was passed with 140 votes in favour and 50 against.
According to the law’s preamble, unlawful attacks against Hungary’s sovereignty are becoming increasingly common, with foreign entities attempting to gain influence in Hungary to enforce their own interests against those of Hungary. The preamble cites the millions of US dollars in campaign donations received by the left-wing opposition ahead of the 2022 general election.
The bill says that political forces dependent on foreign entities gaining power would harm Hungary’s sovereignty and pose a national security risk.
It says it is necessary to set up an independent body uncovering foreign influence operations, as well as to introduce criminal sanctions for accepting foreign campaign donations.
The Sovereignty Protection Office will be established in line with a constitutional amendment proposal approved by MPs on Tuesday (with 135 in favour, 34 against and 6 abstentions). The new autonomous state administration authority will be involved in assessment activities and making proposals.
It will be tasked with investigating organisations whose activities funded from abroad may influence the outcome of the elections.
The head of the office will be appointed by the President of the Republic at the proposal of the prime minister for a six-year term, starting on February 1, 2024.
The office’s task is to analyse information submitted by organisations under investigation with a view to determining whether national sovereignty is enforced, and to recommend measures and legislation aimed at protecting Hungary’s sovereignty. The office will also carry out and finance research activities.
The office will have to compile an annual sovereignty report by June 30 which includes a sovereignty risk analysis.
Its tasks also include uncovering any interest representation or disinformation activity carried out in the interest of other states or foreign organisations, as well as activities aiming to influence decision-making by the state and society. It will also be responsible for identifying and investigating organisations that receive support from abroad for the purpose of influencing the elections.
The Penal Code has also been amended, stating that a candidate or member of the organisation nominating them that made use of foreign money or gained a financial advantage by concealing the origin of the prohibited foreign funding is criminally liable and faces up to three years in prison.