Hungary's civil society warns new sovereignty bill is part of the Orban government’s attempt to silence all critical voices

  • Stay updated on the latest news from Hungary by signing up for the free InsightHungary newsletter 

Critics say Orban's new sovereignty bill is "intentionally vague"

Hungary's primary civil society organizations say far-right prime minister Viktor Orbán is attempting to stifle dissent by proposing legislation that would establish a "sovereignty protection office" tasked with investigating foreign influence.

For the past years, the Hungarian PM has repeated a narrative suggesting that external forces are working to undermine his government and support his adversaries. In a recent speech, Orbán referred to "dark forces" persistently besieging the defensive lines of sovereignty, including those of Hungary. Seven civil society organizations, including Transparency International Hungary and the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union, issued a warning statement, stating that the "sovereignty protection office" is part of a broader government agenda to suppress dissent."The bill is part of the government’s attempt to silence all critical voices."

According to the proposed legislation, the office would investigate advocacy activities, attempts to influence democratic discourse, and organizations using foreign funding to "sway voters". The bill also outlines penalties of up to three years in prison for groups participating in elections that receive banned foreign financing.

The broad language of the legislation has raised concerns that the office could target journalists, trade unions, churches, and companies. The Hungarian Helsinki Committee criticized the bill as "intentionally vague and riddled with undefined and broadly interpreted concepts."

Orban's party unveils billboards bashing von der Leyen and Alex Soros

Hungary's governing party, Fidesz revealed billboards targeting European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen, marking the first instance of her personal vilification in a campaign reminiscent of one directed at her predecessor   Jean-Claude Juncker that sparked controversy in Brussels. The billboards portray Von der Leyen alongside Alex Soros, the son of the billionaire philanthropist George Soros, who is a frequent subject of similar hate campaigns in the Central European country.

The campaign's slogan, "Let's not dance to their tunes," accompanies the images. Soros is of Jewish descent, and critics interpret his prominent role in Fidesz propaganda as indicative of anti-Semitism.

European Commission spokesman Eric Mamer told Reuters that the billboards did not disturb Von der Leyen. "I showed the pictures to the president. She did not bat an eyelid. Completely unfazed," he said. "We know it is not the first time, it is probably not the last time. We have business to do. We have crises to manage, we have policies to implement."

This move echoes similar billboards featuring Juncker, alongside Soros, which drew criticism from Brussels in 2019. Fidesz removed them after the European Parliament's primary center-right EPP group threatened to expel the Hungarian party. Fidesz eventually left the EPP two years later.

National consultation survey contains misleading information according to court order

The Hungarian government's recent nationwide survey has been initiated, and postal services are delivering the questionnaire to households across the nation. The public inquiry consists of queries accompanied by statements asserting that Brussels intends to eliminate household subsidies for utility charges, windfall taxes, and the so-called "Child Protection Act". The latter, widely regarded as anti-LGBT+, includes provisions that prohibit the depiction of homosexuality in content meant for under 18.

The questionnaire also alleges that the EU aims to "establish migrant ghettos in Hungary". It features multiple inquiries about Ukraine, covering topics such as the country's bid for EU membership, the EU's financial support, Ukrainian grain, and weapons for Ukraine. The last question addresses foreign influence, stating, "They want to influence Hungarian politics using money from Brussels and overseas," with accompanying text asserting that foreign organizations have spent billions of euros to compel Hungary to alter its stance on crucial issues. Hungary's top court ruled on Wednesday that the government had published "misleading and falsely presented facts" about the Hungarian Helsinki Committee.

Previous government surveys have also contained misleading information and questions. The European Commission previously labeled information provided in a past survey as "factually incorrect or highly misleading."

MCC publishes report about the "LGBTQ lobby taking over the EU"

MCC Brussels, a government-funded think tank released a report titled "How did LGBTQ take over the EU?". The author, Carlton Brick alleges that the issue of sexual rights "has been utilized as a tool to vilify EU member states in Central and Eastern Europe". The report suggests that the EU's advocacy for LGBTQ+ rights is increasingly perceived through the lens of transgender ideology. 

According to the report, the 1999 Treaty of Amsterdam provided the groundwork for the EU to "weaponize LGBTQ advocacy," empowering non-governmental organizations like ILGA-Europe. Brick asserts that ILGA-Europe has been actively involved in undermining civil culture in Central and Eastern European countries. The report claims that, through the politicization of sexual identity, the EU has intentionally aimed to disrupt and polarize the political and civil cultures of these nations.

According to critics, MCC is part of a network that supports Orban's ongoing culture war.