Huge donation from state coffers for the government’s favorite NGO
While the Hungarian government is busy dismantling the country’s civil society, it is all too happy to provide ample funding to other so-called NGOs that are secret subsidiaries of the political propaganda apparatus. Atlatszo.hu has explored and exposed one such group that will, in all likeliness, play a major role in the 2018 general elections.
Hungary’s state-owned energy group MVM Zrt has provided more than HUF 500 million in funding to the COF-COKA cluster, NGOs in name but fully loyal to the governing Fidesz party. It took Atlatszo.hu several freedom of information requests, including a submission to NAIH, the national data freedom bureau, to finally compel the state-owned firm to reveal its donations in details, which includes COF. It was by far the biggest single spending entry for the period between 2014 and 2017.
This means that now we have proof of the government using state funds to promote its own agenda indirectly while claiming that the activities of COF and COKA represent grassroots support for its policies.
There was never any doubt about the political allegiance of COF. It was set up by individuals already close to Fidesz, and accordingly the group has received plenty of attention since the conservative right won in 2010. COF leader Laszlo Csizmadia has been working hard to make his organisation important for Fidesz, it contributed to the negative campaign that eventually contributed to Viktor Orban’s reelection, once more with a supermajority. It also orchestrated mass marches which were meant to demonstrate unity behind Orban’s policies at times when the cabinet received intense criticism from abroad.
MVM’s donations do include legitimate charities, such as supporting orphaned children or scientific research. However, even the research hubs that got funded are more often than not tied to well-known figures loyal to the government. The amount is also surprising considering that despite its massive profitability, MVM has been relatively tight-fisted when it comes to financing charitable causes.
The COF-COKA group reacted to our early reporting saying that there is nothing wrong with the arrangement and that they will be using the money to support their work for civil society. This includes research and promotion of the brand new science of ‘civilitics’, rallying support from the public, improving childhood nutrition and integrating small, family-owned businesses into major production chains. is clear from this list, is that the various mission statements are so vague they could include a whole range of activities. COF’s regular finance reports also show that despite the fact they received the donation for 2017, they have hardly spent any of it. The MVM subsidy is nearly five times as much as COF operated on in the preceding year.
The various mission statements of the programs mentioned above are so vague that they could include a whole range of activities. COF’s regular finance reports also show that despite the fact that they have already received the donation for 2017, they have hardly spent any of it.
The MVM subsidy is nearly five times as much as COF’ complete operating budget last year.
COF’s spending typically spikes as elections approach and Fidesz political opponents need to be smeared. It is most likely that the generous budget from the state will once more serve similar purposes as the campaign for the 2018 general elections is beginning to heat up.