Soros Foundation Leaves Hungary Citing 'Repression' of Civil Society

Frederick Owens
May 16, 2018

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and members of his FIDESZ party celebrate from the podium on the bank of the Danube River after winning the parliamentary election on April 8, 2018 in Budapest.

Orban won a third four-year term in April and is on his first foreign policy visit since then to Poland, which is the biggest beneficiary of European Union aid, using it to upgrade its infrastructure.

Global charity Funds "open Society", founded by financier and philanthropist George Soros, covers the worldwide activities in Budapest.

The bill would allow the interior minister to ban any NGOs active in the immigration field deemed to pose a "national security risk".

In recent years, the fiercely anti-immigration Orban has waged a series of large-scale taxpayer-funded information campaigns attacking Soros, accusing him of being a "public enemy" plotting to change the cultural fabric of Europe.

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Soros' Open Society Foundations, which promote democracy and free speech, have also endured threats of legal sanctions from the government.

The new legislation restricts the work of NGOs that receive foreign funding, imposing a punitive 25% overhead tax on donations. Soros supporters argued the campaign also had anti-Semitic overtones, a claim the government rejected.

According to the OSF statement, the organization will continue to support Hungarian civil-society groups on issues such as education, transparency and media freedom following the move to Berlin. Open Society Foundations said Tuesday that it would seek legal routes to challenge the new legislation.

Last October, Soros moved $18 billion - the majority of his estimated $24.6 billion fortune - to the Open Society Foundations. "The Foundations are taking appropriate steps regarding the safety and well-being of those affected by the office relocation", the organization said in a statement.

Government pressure shows no sign of easing, however: Mr Orban said recently that he would not "shed crocodile tears" over the OSF, and he backed a pro-government magazine's publication of a list of more than 200 Hungarian NGO staff, academics and journalists whom it called "Soros mercenaries".

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