Hungarian government only one to vote against EU law on transparency in political advertising

March 12. 2024. – 03:07 PM



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Member states voted on a regulation on transparency in political advertising in the EU Council on Monday. As Portfolio has spotted, the Hungarian government's representative was the only one to vote against the regulation, while two delegates – from Austria and Estonia – abstained. A qualified majority (i.e. 15 out of 27 countries accounting for 65% of the EU's total population) was enough for the proposal to pass, so it passed with flying colours.

The Council had previously reached a political agreement with the other legislative body, the European Parliament about the proposal. MEPs already agreed on the legislation in February, so the current vote by member states will be followed by its signing and publication in the EU's official journal. Part of the new rules will enter into force in twenty days, while most of the provisions will not come into force for another year and a half, well after the European Parliament elections taking place this June.

Fidesz also voted against the draft while it was before the EP. During the debate on the proposal, Edina Tóth of the larger Hungarian governing party said that EU bureaucrats were trying to push through an EU proposal that would allow "Brussels" to censor election campaigns and influence their outcome. She said it was clear that the text ignores the interests of EU countries, limits their sovereignty and is yet another example of the EU institutions' covert attempts to expand their powers. She said she was saddened that "the first to violate freedom of speech were those who have been working day and night to censor opinions they do not like", which is nothing less than the suppression of democratic values. "It is time to put an end to political and ideological pressuring”, she said.

However, Sandro Gozi, the draft's EP rapporteur, believes that the legislation would increase transparency, especially on the internet, for example by harmonising the labelling of political advertising. The objective is to make it easier for voters to recognise political advertisements and to know who is placing the ads, to which end an EU register will be created, the Italian Liberal MEP explained. The proposal forbids non-EU players from commissioning paid political ads, but makes it easier for EU party families to run cross-border European campaigns across the common market. According to Momentum MEP Anna Donáth, the legislation would weaken Chinese and Russian influence on European elections. The politician responsible for presenting the opinion of the Justice and Home Affairs Committee on the legislation stressed that the regulation prohibits the targeting of individuals with advertisements based on sensitive personal data.

We have previously covered paid political advertisements in several articles, for example, when showing that during the 2022 election year alone, more than HUF 5 billion were spent on such ads on Facebook in Hungary.

In February, our partner Direkt36 gathered data indicating that the Hungarian government has used state funds and taxpayers' money to try and shape public discourse in other countries via paid advertisements, and did so during election campaigns on several occasions. The Hungarian opposition has received billions of forints in funding for the 2022 campaign, mostly from abroad, part of which was spent on "organising communication campaigns and events" and "social media-based campaigns".

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