NGOs Urge Speedy Action Against Hungary's Defence Law

Human Rights Watch

Ms. Ursula von der Leyen

President of the European Commission

Ms. Věra Jourová

Vice-President of the European Commission

Brussels, 14 May 2024


Accelerating the infringement procedure and requesting interim measures in the case of Hungary's Law on the Defence of National Sovereignty

Dear Ms. von der Leyen and Ms. Jourová,

As representatives of a coalition of international civil rights groups dedicated to upholding democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights within Europe, we urgently request further action by the European Commission against Hungary's recent Law on the Defence of National Sovereignty and its enforcement arm, the Sovereignty Protection Office (SPO).i

We welcomed the Commission's decision to act by launching an infringement procedure against Hungary in relation to the Law and are grateful for your initial response on February 7ii; yet the gravity of the situation necessitates a more vigorous and fast reaction, notably to ensure the integrity of the upcoming European Parliament elections on June 9.

The Law's vague definitions of "foreign interests" and "national sovereignty", combined with the SPO's unchecked power to access government and intelligence data and conduct unchallengeable smear campaigns, have instilled a climate of fear and self-censorship in Hungary. This is particularly distressing as many partner organisations in Hungary running apolitical civic engagement initiatives, such as programmes to increase voter participation in the EP elections, are now refraining from applying for essential EU funding due to fears of reprisals.iii The chilling effect is also palpable among journalists as the law enables the government to target independent mediaiv by deeming them a threat to "sovereignty" or "national security"v, which in turn affects the free flow of information, crucial for genuine political debate, informed voting and democratic engagement. The SPO's current inquiries, notably into Péter Magyar, a prominent opposition figure, underscore a broader threat not only to Hungarian civil society and voters but also to the democratic processes across the

When a Member State restricts democratic pluralism in this way, it has an impact on the whole Union.

The European Commission can act effectively to address this crisis. The European Parliament has already voiced its concern on April 24, urging swift actionvii. We echo this call and urge you to refer this matter to the Court of Justice of the European Union in the upcoming days, seeking interim measures to suspend the enforcement of this draconian law. We also call on you to accelerate the infringement procedure against Hungary in relation to the law.

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