Hungary’s government has criticized Norway after the Nordic country announced on Friday that it will refuse to pay €220 million ($259 million) in financial aid, due to Budapest’s failure to resolve a disagreement over NGO funding.
In a statement released by Norway’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the state declared that Hungary had failed to comply with the requirement that “the fund for civil society must be administered independently of the authorities.”
The statement added that Hungary had accepted that requirement, but had failed to accept “the appointment of the best-qualified candidate for the task,” prompting Norwegian officials to suspend payment of the funding until the two sides can reach an agreement.
The decision sparked an angry rebuke Hungary’s Minister of the Prime Minister’s Office, Gergely Gulyas, who declared that “Norway owes us this money” as Oslo has benefited from its participation in the common market, despite not being an EU member state.
“We have not yet found a method through which the debt could be repaid now, but we are looking for it,” the minister also said in his remarks.
With the European Economic Area (EEA) acknowledging that “a strong civil society is a fundamental building block in a vibrant, well-functioning democracy,” Norway had pledged the money, which would go to Hungarian non-governmental organizations that foster civic participation.
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The decision to withhold the funding comes amid ongoing tension between Hungary and European nations over concerns that Budapest is undermining the rule of law, weakening judicial independence and threatening the rights of LGBT persons.
The disagreement was highlighted on Friday by Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who accused the EU of engaging in an “ideological war” against his nation over demands that Budapest repeal its Children Protection Act, which the European bloc claims discriminates against LGBT people and violates its values.
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