Goverment against NGO’s
Even though Krétakör Foundation has not been in the headlines in the past weeks, recently we have also experienced how the government is trying to disable the critical NGOs. The message of the Government Control Office (KEHI) investigations in May 2014 ordered personally by the prime minister against the 62 organizations that were directly funded by the Norwegian state, was that the NGOs mean threat. The government’s latest campaign against the NGOs also declares the reason why: because NGOs are uncontrollable.
Our experience at the Krétakör Foundation is different. Since 2015 the National Tax and Customs Administration (NAV) has launched two audits. Both procedures were standard audits; we cooperated with NAV in accordance with the regulations. This 24-months cooperation, however, had serious effects on our organisation. Because while we were at the authority’s disposal for hundreds of man-hours with documentations and answers to their question, due to lack of capacity we had to cancel a number of our programs and we couldn’t realize important plans.
Hatred propaganda against civil organisations
The support of the NGOs is based on their relationship with the citizens and on the trust of the community. The credibility of the organizations is particularly important because based on that we collect donations necessary for our operation. In our experience the government propaganda is busy making more and more people question the work of the NGOs. Its success is not measured by the decrease of the willingness of people to support us but in that we regularly receive phone calls, e-mails or even paper messages stuck on to our mail box or door, which show that there are people today whose personal mission is to fight against us.
According to the government the NGOs would pose a threat against Hungary: the NGOs are acclaimed professionals working independently without any state support which mean that these organisatons are free from the obligation of blind loyalty towards the state and can decide themselves what they wish to do. The government has been turning a deaf ear to our professional recommendations for years – in fact, they are trying to clear away even any constructive criticism. For years we have been implementing public tasks instead of the state, without any state support.
Since the spring of 2014 Krétakör has not received any direct state support. In 2015 we closed the last projects that were financed from state sources. Our projects and operating costs are financed from ticket sales, project-related international cooperations and from private donations. The question, then, arises: on what ground does the state keep vexing NGOs that operates without any kind of state support?
Our aim disliked by Goverment: democratical thinking
From 1995 until 2008 Krétakör was known for its theatrical perfomances. Due to the deepening social crisis in the country, we have taken to a road less travelled from 2008 on. We know that real cultural activity cannot be separated from the social context, thus in our campaigns we brought people’s attention to fundamental issues. In the framework of our high school programs we tried to sensitize youth to the basic values of democracy and since 2016 we have been focusing on the development of our educational program.
We are dealing with public affairs (ie. politics), because the legislative/decision making environment directly affects our work. There were professional reasons why Krétakör Foundation has become active in the fight for the freedom of speech and in the protests against the centralization of cultural resources – for example the elimination the former National Cultural Fund’s independence and the monopoly of the Hungarian Academy of Arts. In 2013 we started Free School (Szabadiskola) as a conscious decision for the involvement of the youth.
In 2016 we received the prestigious Princess Margriet Award for our cultural work from the European Cultural Fund. At the award giving ceremony in March the jury noted, among others how successfully Krétakör transformed itself from a theatrical group into a social forum, where students have the opportunity to talk about issues they could not otherwise discuss. Thereby they not only question their own prejudices but they can also become critical and self-conscious members of the society – a kind of people, the divided Hungary and Europe is in dire need for.
We continue in this spirit. But at what cost?
In the beginning of 2015 Krétakör’s two colleagues arrived at the National Tax and Customs Administration (NAV) office with 53 dossiers, where even the transfer and receipt of the documents took several days. The financial documents were returned to us in February, after two years.
For years the daily operation of the Foundation has been obstructed by the audits that were part of the campaign against the NGOs. It defines the communication of the organization and influences the decisions we make related to our programs. On January 16, 2017 we received the termination of our second inspection. Similarly to the first audit in 2015 it found no irregularities. The two audits lasted a total of 24 months. From 2015 it took more than half of the working hours of one colleague, which means that about 800 hours on an annual level was dedicated to the administrational tasks of the tax audits. During 2016 due to the inspection we had to spend more than HUF 700.000 for legal represantion and counseling.
Despite the obstruction we have been working constantly. In 2014 we ran six local and international programs. We had three premieres and more than a hundred students participated in our educational program. By contrast in 2015 we had one premiere and we launched the third year of Free School, while in 2016 we had only one premiere. With the increased administrative workload due to the audits we could only afford contracting less staff (instead of 6 only 3 part time employees) and could take fewer projects to implement.
Now our task is to pass on the knowledge we accumulated and make it accessible. In 2016 as a first step we created the Foundation’s online archive, which we develop continously. As a second step we called for solidarity with the refugees arriving from the war zones; in September 2016 we were the first cultural organizations to launch a campaign – along with several NGOs and artists – to call for humanity. From 2017 we will primarily be dealing with the development of the program of the Free School. Our goal is to create an educational program that would play a significant role in the training of young people, facilitating their conscious participation in social affairs both locally and in the region.
We have the right to have a say in public affairs because politics is about us.