Hungarian Conservative

Constitutionally Immune to International Disorders Affecting Sovereignty

Jacques-Louis David, Oath of the Horatii (Le Serment des Horaces) (1784). Musée du Louvre, Paris, France
Jacques-Louis David, Oath of the Horatii (Le Serment des Horaces) (1784). Musée du Louvre, Paris, France
‘Democracy, as a concept, is inherently subject to interpretation and enforcement from within. This underscores the imperative: political disputes find resolution within domestic arenas and nowhere else, and unwavering loyalty is owed solely to one’s political adversaries, without allegiance to any foreign entity.’

This article was published in Vol. 4 No. 1 of our print edition.

‘I think as Europeans become more and more Americanized, I’ve seen other European countries adopt these uniquely American political ideologies. So, there’s no reason to think that Hungary would be totally immune. Although I would say that in my view, Hungary has a more robust immune system, and thus could be more successful in limiting the damages from these movements and ideas’1—said Chris Rufo, a renowned American conservative commentator and activist, in response to a query from Hungarian Conservative regarding the potential impact of prevailing international ideological trends on Hungary. Little did he know, at the time of the interview, that his evaluation would prove remarkably accurate: starting 1 February 2024, a brand-new institutional framework is set to safeguard the Hungarian state and popular sovereignty, led by political scientist Tamás Lánczi.

The interview with Rufo took place just over a year after the parliamentary elections, culminating in a resounding triumph for the Hungarian conservatives. However, attributing this electoral success solely to past effective governance and the ultimately lacklustre political performance of the opposition would be an oversimplification.

Elections Manipulated?

As Hungarian Conservative previously reported,2 Budapest Mayor Gergely Karácsony’s 99 Movement received over HUF 650 million (c. USD 2 million) in funding, mostly after it had become inactive, with the Budapest mayor dropping out of the primary race for prime minister. The organization claims that the bulk of its revenue came from ‘micro donations’ collected in cash in drop-boxes at live events. However, even opposition media admit that this is more than unrealistic given the large sum, and the fact that much of it came in foreign currencies. Furthermore, in addition to various other instances, the prime ministerial candidate of the unified opposition openly stated that his organization had received millions of dollars from the United States during the election campaign, through—it was later revealed—a non-profit entity called Action for Democracy.

Action for Democracy appears to fit the mould of a typical leftist NGO. According to its archived website,3 the stated mission of Action for Democracy is to amplify participation in pivotal elections where the potential defeat of authoritarian regimes hangs in the balance. Interestingly, only two instances were cited, Hungary and Brazil, with their elections scheduled for April and October 2022 respectively. As a former contributor to Hungarian Conservative points out,4 the pledged fundraising campaign by Action for Democracy to assist first-time voters in registering for the Brazilian elections never materialized, raising suspicions that the entire initiative might have been orchestrated solely for the Hungarian elections. The site calls Hungary a ‘battleground state where anti-democratic forces are trying to use an upcoming election in April to cement their grip over power’.5

Revisiting the lessons of the 2022 parliamentary elections, the primary Hungarian governing party, Fidesz, submitted draft legislation on the safeguarding of national sovereignty to Parliament on 21 November 2023,6 which has since entered into force.7 The formation of the office stemmed from the recognition that measures must be taken to prevent a recurrence of abuses akin to those witnessed during the 2022 elections in Hungary. At that time, Hungary faced an extremely serious intervention and influence endeavour. Amidst the ongoing media hype around this topic, exhaustive national security investigation laid bare the intricate details of foreign entities funnelling significant amounts of money in an attempt to advance their interests at the expense of Hungarian interests.

Consequently, the enactment of the Sovereignty Protection Act, leading to the establishment of the Sovereignty Protection Office, along with legislative amendments imposing more stringent restrictions on the use of foreign funds in election campaigns, represents a substantial accomplishment. While similar challenges are acknowledged by other Central and Eastern European countries, Hungary stands alone in providing such a comprehensive and institutionalized response.

Well-Known Challenges Lead to Roads Untravelled

Amidst the debate around the Office, it is evident that one standout accomplishment of the law—a document comprising nearly forty sections integrating an amendment of the Hungarian Criminal Code—is the establishment of a brand-new agency. The Sovereignty Protection Office will operate independently from all Hungarian constitutional bodies. Guarantees of this independence include the stipulation that the Office has to report to the Hungarian Parliament annually, while the president of the office can only be dismissed by the president of Hungary.

While it does not fall under the purview of state administrative bodies, the Office has the power to request data from other authorities for the purpose of conducting its investigations. Its primary objective will involve identifying and probing actions related to disinformation and attempts to influence the decision-making processes of the state and society on behalf of foreign nations, bodies, or organizations. Additionally, it will scrutinize entities whose activities, funded from abroad, aim to sway elections or manipulate the preferences of voters. The Office may raise the alarm if the revealed activities pose a potential risk or encroach upon Hungary’s sovereignty.

If we take a look at the global landscape, it becomes evident that the world is currently navigating an era in which elevating the safeguarding of sovereignty to a heightened level is essential for every state. This heightened awareness is not coincidental, as active discourse on the subject is prevalent. Noteworthy examples include France, where the Council of State (Conseil d’État) orchestrates a series of conferences dedicated to fortifying French sovereignty.8 Additionally, the European Union’s office in Brussels, tasked with scrutinizing external influence attempts, stands out as an international benchmark in addressing this danger.

Establishing the Special Committee on Foreign Interference in all Democratic Processes in the EU, including Disinformation (INGE),9 sends a definitive message—an unmistakable warning directed at all external forces endeavouring to meddle in the democratic institutions and procedures of the EU and its individual member states. While the INGE Committee of the European Parliament was established for reasons akin to the larger Hungarian governing party proposal for the creation of the Sovereignty Protection Office, it is evident that a European Parliament committee, by its very nature, lacks the capability to fulfil the duties required to safeguard Hungarian constitutional identity.

It is to be noted, however, that based on what the Hungarian voters experienced during the 2022 parliamentary elections, EU elections are not only a Hungarian national concern but also a broader EU issue. This in theory means that the EU might indeed rely on the Office’s assistance should any anomalies come to light during the EU elections. Still, it is highly improbable that the EU institutions will seek assistance from Hungary’s Sovereignty Protection Office regarding potential irregularities linked to the EP elections. On the contrary: the Hungarian administration has experienced on many occasions that Brussels over-extends its powers,10 meaning that decision-makers in Brussels view not only the Sovereignty Protection Office, but also Hungarian sovereignty itself with distaste.

One sad but remarkable development in this regard can be seen in an interview with the vice president of the European Commission, in which she described Hungary as a sick democracy, while deeming Hungarians to be practically unfit to make responsible decisions.11 The European Commission, for example, addressed the Hungarian government with many targeted questions in an almost unmistakably hostile manner immediately after the enactment of the Act on State Sovereignty.

Bound by Hungarian Constitutional Identity

The establishment of the Sovereignty Protection Office draws inspiration from various sources, notably the precedents set by the Constitutional Court. The interrelation between the human dignity of the individual and the society at large serves as the basis upon which the rationale is constructed. The traditional social environment of the individual, as a natural bond determined by birth, defines not only the development of one’s personality, but also the direction and framework of one’s self-identity, and as such, must be assessed in terms of the quality of human life and, accordingly, human dignity.

This means, on the one hand, that the state must refrain from interfering in the formation of the individual’s identity, and on the other hand—as part of its duty to protect the institution—it must ensure that no act of an institution or organization other than a Hungarian state body can engage in interference which the state itself is obliged to refrain from—argues the Hungarian Constitutional Court.12

It is indisputable, the reasoning goes on to state, that self-identity can be changed in the context of individual self-determination. However, if the contents of self-identity are altered artificially and undemocratically, whether by the state or by an organization outside the state, this may infringe upon both the self-identity of the individual and his or her self-determined ability to alter it. And this is where national identity becomes relevant: the traditional social environment an individual is born into, which is independent of that individual, helps shape self-determination, and the self-determination of the individuals who make up the society creates and then shapes a collective identity—the identity of the community, the nation.

‘Mega Whistle-Blower Office’

The Sovereignty Protection Office’s primary instrument is the public itself. This is because Hungarian citizens rightfully demand a clear understanding of who is attempting to sway their opinions and how. Therefore, it is entirely valid for voters to request comprehensive information about the funding behind political figures, as well as individuals involved in political and media operations within Hungary. This scrutiny extends to organizations claiming to be civic but engaging in political activities, even if they profess transparency as a goal but no longer adhere to it. Furthermore, the Office serves as a counselling entity, allowing it to propose legislative changes. In accordance with the law, the Office is obligated to notify lawmakers if it identifies any deficiencies.

It is important to underscore that the Office does not wield broad public authority powers; its primary tool is the obligation of organizations such as NGOs, parties, and foundations to disclose information about their operations. At the same time, the Office must always act in accordance with the relevant data-protection regulations. Information gathered is then analyzed by the Office, which will pursue necessary actions, such as criminal prosecution, upon detecting any illegal patterns.

The proposed changes to the Hungarian Criminal Code introduce a fresh offense labelled ‘illegal manipulation of the will of the voters’.13 This would mean that individuals who utilize forbidden foreign assistance or, in an attempt to bypass this restriction, leverage financial benefits stemming from an agreement masking the origin of such prohibited aid, may face a criminal charge carrying a penalty of up to three years’ imprisonment.14

While the Hungarian left-leaning narrative, and possibly soon the international one—here is one piece from The Guardian—paints this legislation as a threat from Fidesz to opposition parties, journalists, and civilians, the definition of ‘prohibited’ foreign funding is not outlined by an authority or the Hungarian government.15 In truth, it is defined by two existing laws—the legislation concerning the functioning and administration of political parties and the law governing electoral procedures.

There Is Much to Discover

Operating as a background institution of the Office, the think tank is dedicated to conducting research and analysis, disseminating its findings to the public through professional publications and conferences. This entails engaging in independent scientific endeavours, including the monitoring of measures implemented by other nations to safeguard their sovereignty.

Needless to say, the evaluation of the overall state of sovereignty may require the presentation of well-founded arguments and a professional approach. US Ambassador David Pressman considered Hungary’s latest initiative targeting the preservation of national sovereignty as ‘alarming’. As per the diplomat, known for his systematic encroachments on Hungarian domestic political affairs, this legislation poses a significant threat by potentially enabling the criminalization and intimidation of independent civil society and media organizations. He warns that such a development could have severe consequences, characterizing it as a perilous path. The ambassador expressed a fervent hope that Hungary would reconsider this concept, underscoring the perceived severity of its measures in safeguarding sovereignty, even surpassing comparable laws seen in Putin’s Russia.16

Obviously, the unique political role of the American diplomat may prove a fruitful avenue for research within the think tank of the Office of Sovereignty Protection. The same applies to a similar framework, the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), applied in the US enacted in 1938. FARA stipulates that individuals acting on behalf of foreign principals engaged in political or specified activities must regularly disclose their association, along with related activities, receipts, and expenditures. This disclosure serves the dual purpose of enabling government scrutiny and allowing the American public to assess these individuals’ actions in their capacity as foreign agents. Administered and enforced by the FARA Unit within the National Security Division’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section (CES) ensures the oversight and implementation of FARA provisions.17

It is to be noted that both the FARA and the Hungarian Sovereignty Protection Act share a common objective—both of them mitigate foreign influence. However, a fundamental disparity lies in the enforcement mechanisms. In the United States, individuals or organizations attempting to influence American domestic policy on behalf of a foreign entity are required to classify themselves as ‘foreign agents’.

When taking a look at the section of FARA regarding criminal penalties, one can see that this regulatory framework is notably more stringent in the United States than in Hungary. Individuals found guilty of wilfully violating any provision of FARA, its regulations, registration statements, supplements, or any document submitted to the Attorney General under FARA, with intentionally false statements or material omissions, may face severe consequences. Upon conviction, the penalty could entail a fine of up to USD 250,000 or imprisonment for a maximum of five years.18

‘Through the establishment of the Sovereignty Protection Office, the legitimate Hungarian legislator is unmistakably signalling its stance to those who question the legitimacy of the Hungarian voters’ will’

Offences related to the improper labelling of informational materials, insufficient disclosure to Congress or federal agencies, failure to rectify deficiencies in registrations, or engaging in contingent fee arrangements carry penalties under which individuals may face a fine of up to USD 5,000 or imprisonment for a maximum of six months, or a combination of both.19 In addition, neglecting to submit a required registration statement or its supplements under FARA constitutes a continuing offense for the duration of the failure, regardless of any applicable statutes of limitation or conflicting laws.20

Lessons Learned, Messages Sent

Chris Rufo was right: by promoting a fundamentally flawed interpretation of the rule of law, employing ‘independent’ international media and NGO networks as political instruments, advocating impractical policies on migration and identity, and disseminating self-centred views on the future of the European Union, the progressive international left has entered an era where denouncing Hungary has become an easy strategy, as well as a cost-effective means of unification.

By contrast, through the establishment of the Sovereignty Protection Office, the legitimate Hungarian legislator is unmistakably signalling its stance to those who question the legitimacy of the Hungarian voters’ will. The move underscores the commitment of EU member state Hungary to its constitutional identity and sovereignty while emphasizing the significance of voters’ will as a matter of integrity, a no-go zone for those who operate under the guise of ‘independence’. Additionally, it reinforces the notion that decisions on, for example, the trajectory of migration and identity politics are internal affairs to be determined autonomously.

As a conservative, I share the view of the distinguished Hungarian lawyer and opposition politician András Schiffer on at least one fundamental principle: democracy, as a concept, is inherently subject to interpretation and enforcement from within. This underscores the imperative: political disputes find resolution within domestic arenas and nowhere else, and unwavering loyalty is owed solely to one’s political adversaries, without allegiance to any foreign entity.


1 Márton Lukács, ‘“Hungary Has a Robust Immune System against Woke Ideology, But Should Be on Guard”—An Interview with Chris Rufo’, Hungarian Conservative (19 April 2023),

2 Márton Losonczi, ‘Budapest Mayor Karácsony in Hot Water over Campaign Finance Irregularities’, Hungarian Conservative (4 July 2023),

3 Way Back Machine,, accessed 1 February 2024.

4 Tamás Orbán, ‘How Action for Democracy (Export) Failed in Hungary’, Hungarian Conservative (29 November 2022),

5 Way Back Machine,, accessed 1 February 2024.

6 The ‘Draft Act LXXXVIII of 2023 on the Protection of National Sovereignty’ is available in Hungarian at, accessed 1 February 2024.

7 ‘Act LXXXVIII of 2023 on the Protection of National Sovereignty’.

8 See, for example, the conference on ‘The New Dimensions of Sovereignty (Les nouvelles dimensions de la souveraineté)’ organized by the Council of State of France (Conseil d’État), www.conseil-etat. fr/publications-colloques/colloques-et-conferences/revoir-les-nouvelles-dimensions-de-la-souverainete, accessed 1 February 2024.

9 For the official website of the Special Committee on Foreign Interference in all Democratic Processes in the EU, including Disinformation (INGE), go to, accessed 1 February 2024.

10 Gergely Dobozi, ‘Barbed Hooks and the Rule of Law’, Constitutional Discourse (4 September 2023),

11 Interview given by European Commission Vice President Vera Jourová to Der Spiegel on 26 September 2020,, accessed 4 February 2024.

12 ‘Decision No. 32/2021. (XII.20.) of the Constitutional Court of Hungary’,$FILE/32_2021%20AB%20hat%C3%A1rozat.pdf, accessed 1 February 2024.

13 ‘Section 350/A of Act C of 2012 on the Criminal Code’.

14 ‘32. § (2) of the bill on the protection of national sovereignty’.

15 Lili Bayer, ‘Hungarian Plan to Target Foreign Influence Fuels NGO and Media Fears’, The Guardian (13 November 2023), world/2023/nov/13/hungary-plan-target-foreign-influence-ngo-media-fears-sovereignty.

16 ‘And, most recently, when the government proposes to create a new domestic security agency, armed with unfettered and unchecked investigative powers— including tapping the nation’s intelligence services, issuing subpoenas, demanding documents from and depositions of anyone involved in “democratic debate”, all without judicial oversight, it is alarming. The government’s proposed authority has a mandate whose breadth is breathtaking. As written, it has the ability to reach each of your companies and each of your employees should you be deemed to be involved in “advocacy activities” or “democratic debate”. Just as it reaches independent media organizations and civil society organizations. This draft law makes Moscow’s foreign agent law look mild and meek.’ ‘Remarks of Ambassador David Pressman at the American Chamber of Commerce’s Patrons Dinner’, W Hotel, Budapest, 5 December 2023, U.S. Embassy in Hungary,

17 Official website of the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA),

18 See ‘22 U.S.C. § 618(a); 18 U.S.C. § 3571, Foreign Agents Registration Act’.

19 See ‘22 U.S.C. § 618(a), Foreign Agents Registration Act’.

20 See ‘22 U.S.C. § 618(e), Foreign Agents Registration Act’.

Related articles:

‘Hungary Has a Robust Immune System Against Woke Ideology, But Should Be on Guard’ — An Interview with Chris Rufo
Brussels Opens New Front against Hungary: Infringement Procedure Launched over Sovereignty Protection Law
2024 — The Year of Sovereignty Protection
‘Democracy, as a concept, is inherently subject to interpretation and enforcement from within. This underscores the imperative: political disputes find resolution within domestic arenas and nowhere else, and unwavering loyalty is owed solely to one’s political adversaries, without allegiance to any foreign entity.’