George Soros’ Open Society Foundations is ending its operations in Hungary, accusing Budapest of repressing civil society. PM Viktor Orban has repeatedly slammed the tycoon for meddling in the nation’s internal affairs.
“Faced with an increasingly repressive political and legal environment in Hungary, the Open Society Foundations are moving their Budapest-based international operations and staff to the German capital, Berlin,” the group confirmed on Tuesday.
Patrick Gaspard, the president of the Open Society Foundations, lashed out at Budapest, saying it has “denigrated and misrepresented our work,” while repressing civil society “for the sake of political gain.”
The group based its decision on the fact that Budapest “prepares to impose further restrictions on nongovernmental organizations through what it has branded its “Stop Soros” package of legislation.”
Prime Minister Viktor Orban has repeatedly spoken out against the detrimental agendas of Soros’ foundation and other NGOs, accusing the billionaire of meddling in Hungary’s internal political affairs by funding opposition groups.
Speaking on the recent election and the victory of his Fidesz party, Orban said, “I know they won’t accept the result of the election, they will organize all sorts of things, they have unlimited financial resources.”
When news of the Open Society Foundations’ possible departure from Hungary broke in April, Orban said: “You might understand if I don’t cry my eyes out.”
In February, Fidesz submitted a bill to parliament called the ‘Stop Soros Act’ – in reference to the Hungarian-American tycoon – which would curb immigration and would also affect foreign-funded NGOs. The bill says that all NGOs which“support illegal immigration” need to be registered, while any NGO which gets money from abroad must pay a 25-percent tax.
Also, foreign citizens and Hungarian nationals who support illegal immigration could be subject to a restraining order which would keep them away from the border. “If Soros is found to have engaged in such activity, meaning he organizes illegal immigration, then the rules will apply to him,” government spokesman Zoltan Kovacs said in February.
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The 87-year-old worked as a trader and analyst before establishing Soros Fund Management in 1969. He became one of the world’s foremost investors, generating enormous wealth for himself. The Hungarian-American made a fortune, but also earned notoriety for shorting Britain’s pound sterling, which forced the currency’s collapse in the 1990s.
The Open Society Foundations project was started in 1979, with the first non-US foundation opening in Hungary in 1984. The group currently has annual expenditures of over $940 million, operates in over 100 countries across the globe, with 26 national and regional foundations and offices.
The billionaire was once likened to Satan for his calls to bring migrants into Europe, which was perceived by some Hungarian MPs as an attempt to destroy the independence and values of nation-states. Hungarian lawmaker Andras Aradszki of the Christian Democratic People’s Party (KDNP) said it is a Christian duty to fight what he called “Satan’s Soros plan.”
The billionaire also faced accusations of meddling in British politics after news emerged that he donated almost half a million pounds to a campaign seeking to reverse Brexit.
Orban, a harsh critic of illegal immigration and Brussels’ mandatory migrant quotas, once stated that the recent wave of refugees entering Europe is an invasion. In December 2017, Hungary, along with Poland and the Czech Republic, said they reserve the “right” to reject EU-imposed refugee quotas in spite of pressure from the European Commission. The three countries argued at the time that the refugees could pose a direct threat to public security.