Back to top

Veronika Mora Testimony

Veronika Mora Testimony

In April 2014, just two days after the general election which brought the repeated victory of the right-conservative government of Fidesz, the head of the Prime Minister’s Office announced that he would initiate the re-negotiation of how funding is provided by EEA (European Economic Area) countries – Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein – to Hungarian NGOs. This signalled the beginning of a series of unprecedented governmental attacks and the harassment of independent civil society groups, especially those engaged in human rights, anti-corruption, women’s rights and LBGT rights.

My foundation, as the head of the grant-making consortium which managed the EEA/Norwegian NGO Programme in Hungary found itself in the centre of the conflict, which began with a media smear campaign orchestrated by the government. High ranking officials, such as deputy state secretaries accused us of being politically biased, oppositional “cheating nobodies”, but this was soon followed by official inspections. In late May the Prime Minister's Office announced publicly that the so-called Governmental Control Office (GCO) would audit the use of the EEA/Norwegian funding. According to lawyers, this is something they clearly had no jurisdiction over. It was also quite telling of the whole process that we always learnt about these moves from government-friendly media before any official notifications were issued. Although they never answered our repeated requests to clarify the legal basis of the audit, we were forced to cooperate, due to the GCO’s wide ranging sanctioning powers. Additionally, we discovered that documents not previously in the public domain, but handed over to the GCO during the course of the audit somehow found their way to the government-friendly media – and were always featured in a damning context.

By August 2014, the administrative processes had turned into criminal accusations – again, made first in the media. These accusations ranged from fraud to mismanagement and unlicensed financial activity, and we soon learned that a criminal investigation had indeed been launched. The situation quickly escalated. On the morning of 8 September 2014, the National Bureau of Investigation invaded our office with a team of approximately 20 police officers. They searched for documents relating to the management and the grantees of the EEA/Norwegian NGO Programme, and later visited the office of our accountant, our IT provider and partners, and also the homes of some staff members (where archived documents were kept). The raid lasted the entire day and during this time colleagues were forbidden from communicating with the outside world by any means. The police confiscated written documents and laptops during the raid. We filed a complaint against the search and the court eventually ruled it to have been unlawful in January 2015, on the grounds that there was no suspicion upon which such a search could be conducted.

The GCO published its “report” in late October 2015. This 40 page document repeats all the earlier accusations, although it omits any factual data to support them – there are no names, amounts or any other form of tangible information. At the same time, government-friendly media leaked internal e-mail exchanges and other private matters of the foundations. Thus the media campaign continued – and while it has decreased in intensity, it has not stopped.

Veronika Mora

It was quite telling of the whole process that we always learnt about these moves from government-friendly media before any official notifications were issued.