Sympathy protest for Ökotárs Foundation in Budapest as the foundation's premises are raided by police in Budapest | Lajos Soós / MTI

Police raid Norway Grants distributor in Budapest

September 8, 2014

A special unit of the national police force searched the Budapest headquarters of Ökotárs, a foundation coordinating the distribution of funds from the EEA/Norway Grants in Hungary, under suspicion of embezzlement and unauthorised financial activities. Opposition parties have called on Viktor Orbán's government to stop intimidating civil organizations. Monday eveng, over a thousand people gathered for a demonstration to protest against the government's politically motivated use of the police force.

According to press reports on Monday morning, a “large number” of police occupied the Ökotars premises. Later on, the head of the foundation, Veronika Móra - as here lawyer said in a telelvison interview, was escorted by police to her home for her laptop computer that also contains information on the foundation's activicities.

On September 3, the daily Magyar Nemzet referred to an unnamed organisation which was suspected of having granted loans totalling nearly 100 million forints (EUR 318,000) to 17 civil groups without a licence for such activities.

Veronika Móra stated in a television interview last week that the Ökotárs foundation have been targeted for months as government officials believe only a Hungarian government agency is entitled to distribute Norwegian/EEA funds in the country - something that Norway disagrees with. She added that the foundation loaned money to organizations who won at Norwegian/EEA tenders but were unable to put up their own part of the finances. Analysts believe that this is what the government may term as 'unauthorised financial activity'.

The opposition E-PM party said the raid was part of a politically motivated procedure and accused the government of “Putinist methods” and trying to intimidate civil organisations, which “defend what is left of Hungarian democracy”.

The leftist Democratic Coalition (DK) called on the government to stop its “attacks” on the civil society. Csaba Molnár, managing deputy head of the party, referred to “intimidation by police” and called it unacceptable that the government should “send riot police against a civil group which performs social functions the government is not capable of”.

According to the Socialist Party, the police did not have the legal grounds to occupy the foundation’s headquarters. Gergely Bárándy, Socialist deputy chair of parliament’s legislative committee, said that Monday’s crackdown, which he said was evocative of a police state, could “terrify the entire civil sector”. Prime Minister Viktor Orbán must not “consider Putin’s illiberal autocracy as an example”.


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