Goerge Soros has been run out of town in Viktor Orban’s Hungary. Under pressure from Orban’s nationalist government, the Hungarian-born billionaire’s Soros Foundation said Tuesday that it will close its office in Budapest and re-locate to Berlin to get away from a “repressive political and legal environment.”
Orban’s government has waged a relentless campaign against Soros, promising to pass a “Stop Soros” law that would penalize non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that promote open borders.
Soros leaves Hungary
Soros, 87, has consistently denied trying to transform Hungary with mass migration. His Open Society Foundations (OSF) complained that Hungary had painted a misleading portrait of the group and its aims. “The government of Hungary has denigrated and misrepresented our work and repressed civil society for the sake of political gain, using tactics unprecedented in the history of the European Union,” OSF president Patrick Gaspard said in a statement.
The OSF said it would keep endorsing liberal “human rights” groups in Hungary, although those could also face pressure to leave. Orban’s cabinet minister Antal Rogan said Monday that other NGOs could feel the squeeze from a planned “Stop Soros” bill, which is expected to be one of the first laws passed by the new parliament.
Hungary announced the “Stop Soros” legislation earlier this year to address “national security concerns,” namely, immigration. The bill already penalizes NGOs that promote open borders immigration, allowing the interior minister to ban those that pose a “national security risk” and slap a 25 percent tax on foreign donations to groups that support migration. The Helsinki Committee, a top beneficiary of the OSF, said it expects pressure.
“Our situation is likely to get tougher,” said the group’s co-chair Marta Pardavi. “The Helsinki Committee is a definite splinter in the government’s eye, so whatever changes they are thinking about, our legal problems will persist.”
Parvadi said the group, which advocates for refugees, will not leave unless forced. A university founded by Soros in 1991, Central European University, said it would not leave Budapest despite the OSF’s decision to re-locate.
Campaign against Soros
The OSF had been under intense pressure from Hungary before announcing its departure from the Central European nation. Orban has repeatedly denounced Soros, claiming that he wants to undermine Hungary’s national and Christian identity with open borders politics.
Hungary won’t be sad to see Soros go. “We won’t be shedding any crocodile tears,” the government’s press office told AFP Tuesday.
Orban attacked Soros throughout his campaign in April, accusing him of a nefarious plot to destroy
Hungary with an army of 2,000 paid “mercenaries.” Billboards throughout Hungary depicted Soros with a menacing grin and captions like “Let’s not let Soros have the last laugh!”
While Soros, who is a Hungarian-born Jew, complained that Orban’s campaign used racist “anti-Semitic imagery from World War Two,” Orban’s government has denied accusations of racism.
Hungary challenges EU
Critics of Orban said that the OSF leaving was another step in Hungary’s turn towards authoritarianism. Hungary, a European Union member state, has come under criticism from the EU and its supporters for closing its borders to migrants and swerving towards illiberal democracy, even though its government was elected democratically. Orban’s right-wing nationalist Fidesz party was re-elected in a landslide last month.
Orban touted the “Stop Soros” bill at a stop in Warsaw on Monday. It was “one of the most important questions of the election, Hungarians voted for it,” he said.