Hungary sent its replies to the European Commission in the infringement procedures instituted on account of the NGO law and the higher education legislation on Monday, and in these we demonstrated that the restrictions which the Commission found objectionable are necessary and proportionate, the Parliamentary State Secretary of the Ministry of Justice said at his press conference held in Budapest.

Pál Völner added: "it’s hardly our fault that these restrictions are contrary to György Soros’s interests", but not even György Soros can stand above the laws in Hungary, and it is to be hoped that the European Commission, too, "will return to the realm of law within the confines of which these regulations themselves were conceived".

DownloadPhoto: Endre Véssey/Ministry of Justice

The politician stressed: in his view, these cases are primarily of a political nature, and the disputes between the Commission and Hungary are not legal in their nature. This is also supported by the fact, for instance, that Hans Timmermans, First Vice-President of the Commission released a statement on the case of the CEU before the letter in question was drafted.

Mr Völner found it objectionable that while earlier there were two months available for the drafting of responses, this is now the fifth time that Hungary has only been given one month.

"They are systematically and arbitrarily curtailing our right of defence; this, too, indicates that they want to adopt decisions in these cases as soon as possible, in martial law fashion", he remarked.

Regarding the higher education legislation, he said: this procedure is now in phase two, and the Government was required to respond to the so-called reasoned opinion. He highlighted: higher education is within national competence in the European Union, and therefore the competence of the Commission can be called into question as a matter of course.

DownloadPhoto: Endre Véssey/Ministry of Justice

Mr Völner also drew attention to double standards, as he said, foreign universities are not allowed to operate in Germany, Spain and the Czech Republic without actual foreign background institutions, while Slovakia requires a head office in the EEA.

In other words, if our legislation is not appropriate, procedures should also be instituted against these countries, he added.

He said: the Commission also finds the requirement regarding the conclusion of international agreements objectionable, but in the State Secretary’s words, "this does not pose obstacles of any kind between cooperating partners", and the agreement recently concluded with the State of Maryland stands as proof of this. He described the rule related to the use of names, too, as necessary in the interest of public authenticity.

The entire legislation serves the purpose of filtering out phantom universities, universities with no actual background, universities that do not provide valuable degrees, he stressed.

DownloadPhoto: Endre Véssey/Ministry of Justice

By Mr Völner’s account, the infringement procedure instituted on account of the law relating to organisations funded from abroad is in phase one, and the Government was required to respond to the first official letter. He remarked: the Venice Commission reviewed the bill on a preliminary basis, described the purpose of the legislation as legitimate, and Parliament passed an amended bill in light of this opinion.

As he said, according to the Commission’s complaint, registration hinders the free flow of capital. This is, however, not true as non-governmental organisations may continue to receive grants from anywhere.

He added: the legislation guarantees transparency and the transparent flow of funds.

"We need transparency because quite evidently NGOs called non-governmental civil-society organisations interfere with political processes world-wide, they do not come under the effect of the party legislation, and influence public opinion by avoiding the relevant regulations", he said. He remarked that there are similar laws in the United States and Israel as well, and the EU, too, was going to adopt similar regulations.

In response to the suggestion that the NGOs that protested most against the legislation have not yet registered with the courts, Mr Völner said: these are political actions, and it is evident that if official reports are filed, the authorities will start the relevant procedures, in consequence of which the organisations concerned may even be wound up.

DownloadPhoto: Endre Véssey/Ministry of Justice

The politician said in answer to a question: an extraordinary debate in Parliament would only be an exercise of „self-repetition” as these questions were all discussed in the spring. He added: he sees no scope for convening a session with a quorum, and he is intrigued to see whether there will be as many opposition Members of Parliament present as many signed the petition.

Regarding the fact that the issue of foreign currency debtors would also be dealt with at the extraordinary session, he said that the Government has done a great deal in order to help them, and at this point in time they are not planning to extend the available options.

As regards reports that the Hungarian authorities continue to investigate Salah Abdeslam’s connections in Hungary, Mr Völner indicated: a request was received from foreign co-agencies, and the Hungarian authorities are complying with the request, all the more so because the man conducted multiple telephone calls from Hungary.

(Cabinet Office of the Prime Minister/MTI)