Hungarian government may be restarting its harassment of organisations supported by EEA/Norwegian Funds

This morning, the premises of Energiaklub Climate Policy Institute were searched by the inspectors of the National Tax and Customs Authority. The search came without warning and was entirely unexpected. The search warrant revealed little about the reasons, it stated only that it is part of an investigation against an unidentified subject regarding a large-scale tax fraud case. During the visit, contracts, emails and about 300 invoices were seized.

The search involved exclusively a large-scale municipal climate adaptation training programme ran by Energiaklub which ended earlier in 2016. The programme was supported by the Norwegian/EEA Fund, with the managing authority of this portion of the Fund  being the Regional Environment Centre, an intergovernmental organisation based near Budapest.

We find this new process rather inexplicable: the previous tax investigations against Energiaklub and other EEA/Norwegian Fund beneficiaries were just completed in Spring 2016.  Those went on for about 18 months and found no evidence of any irregularities. Knowing the government’s hostility against organisations receiving Norwegian and other international funds, we can only hope that this is not a politically motivated procedure.

A large-scale government investigation was launched in 2014 against several NGOs who are recipients of Norwegian/EEA funds. The probes were allegedly launched because the Hungarian government was unable to influence Norwegian/EEA funding decisions, and thus funds could also reach NGOs that are critical of the government.