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NGOs suspected of embezzlement

September 10th, 2014
Left-liberal dailies sharply criticise the government after police searched the offices of two NGOs. They believe the authorities are simply out to get civic groups which dare to criticise the government. A leading member of the largest pro-government civic organisation rejects accusations of anti-democratic tendencies against the government.
On Monday, police confiscated documents and computers in an investigation into suspected embezzlement by two NGOs in charge of “Norwegian Fund” projects. Norway, Iceland and Lichtenstein enjoy free access to EU markets without contributing to the expenses of the Union and to compensate that advantage lend support to emerging Union member countries. In Hungary they spend about 45 billion Forints per year, one tenth of which is distributed among NGOs. The government alleges that the organisations entrusted with that task are linked to opposition parties and in many cases have sponsored political activities instead of civic initiatives. The case has sparked an open controversy between the governments of Hungary and Norway, and the latter has suspended transferring the nine tenths of the grants which are handled by the government. The authorities have found that the two ’hub NGOs” have regularly given loans to sponsor civic initiatives which according to the authorities amounts to illicit banking and improper use of foundation funds.
Népszabadság accuses the government of having political reasons for ordering the police to raid the premises of the two foundations. In its editorial, the left-wing daily quotes the Prime Minister as hinting at those NGOs as representing political interests – and foreign ones at that. In a sarcastic concluding remark, Népszabadság calls on the government to start looking into hundreds of billions worth of missing VAT payments after it has successfully settled its problem with the 4.5 billion of the ‘Norwegian NGO Fund’.
In Népszava, Péter Somfai says the government’s problem is that it just doesn’t tolerate NGOs outside its own control. On the other hand, it generously supports CÖF, the Civil Unity Forum which has organised several marches in support of the Prime Minister and his cabinet and even sent a letter to President Obama of the United States last week to protest against exhortations to the European Union by leading American media outlets to impose financial sanctions on Hungary because of its perceived anti-democratic tendencies.
In Magyar Nemzet, political scientist Tamás Fricz, one of the authors of the letter to President Obama, argues that the idea of sanctions against Hungary is misplaced, since “this is not North Korea, Cuba or China”. The government’s policies can be legitimately opposed, he continues, but such debates are exchanges of opinion within the realm of democracy. He explains that the Prime Minister’s criticism of “liberal democracy” should be properly translated into English as a rejection of „Neocon democracy”, with its unregulated market forces. Hungary is not an autocracy, nor is it a dictatorship or an anti-Semitic country,” Fricz argues. It is experimenting with new models within the framework of basic human rights and democracy, he suggests.


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