George Soros foundation leaves Hungary amid government crackdown

A foundation founded by Hungarian-born billionaire philanthropist George Soros is moving its Budapest operations to G...

Posted: May 16, 2018 12:57 PM
Updated: May 16, 2018 12:57 PM

A foundation founded by Hungarian-born billionaire philanthropist George Soros is moving its Budapest operations to Germany following the right-wing Hungarian government's crackdown on civil-society organizations and targeted attacks on Soros.

The Budapest branch of Open Society Foundations (OSF), which works to combat authoritarianism and promote human rights around the world and has outposts in more than 100 countries, will move to Berlin because of the "increasingly repressive political and legal environment in Hungary," according to a statement Tuesday.

"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," said OSF President Patrick Gaspard.

Responding to that accusation, a spokesperson for Prime Minister Viktor Orban said the foundation "is fleeing from transparency." In an emailed statement Wednesday, the spokesperson said, "They don't want the public to know exactly what they are engaged in and in what way and thanks to what financing they are supporting immigration."

The announcement by the foundation came one day after Orban pledged to submit a new legislative package known as "Stop Soros" to parliament as soon as the new government is formed. Parliamentary elections last month saw Orban's Fidesz coalition win a supermajority, giving it the power to make sweeping changes to the country's laws and constitution.

During an official visit to Poland on Monday, Orban described the "Stop Soros" package as one of the most important issues in the election.

The bill would tighten an existing law adopted last June that imposes restrictions on nongovernmental organizations receiving foreign funding. It's almost identical to Russia's Foreign Agent Law, which has been used to crack down on opposition voices and independent media.

Claims of 'national security risk'

Hungary is currently being investigated by the European Court of Justice over last year's legislation, which could breach European Union laws on the free movement of capital and violate freedoms enshrined in the EU's Charter of Fundamental Rights.

The law was one of a slew passed during Orban's past eight years in power that tightened regulations on the media, central bank, constitutional court and NGOs. European Union leaders have warned that these laws would undermine the country's democracy.

According to Reuters, the updated legislation would also allow Hungary's interior minister to ban NGOs working in the area of immigration that are considered to pose a "national security risk." Last year, Peter Szijjarto, the country's foreign affairs minister, accused Soros himself of posing such a risk, claiming the philanthropist wanted to "settle hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants in Europe and Hungary." Soros' spokesman said at the time that his views had been misrepresented.

Soros' support for refugees fleeing Africa and the Middle East in recent years has made him a target for Orban's right-wing coalition, which is now entering its third consecutive term and campaigned on a virulently anti-immigrant and anti-refugee platform.

The official campaign included posters and billboards depicting the billionaire next to the slogan, "Let's not allow Soros to have the last laugh," and accusing him of supporting illegal immigration and plotting to take control of the country. Soros supporters argued the campaign also had anti-Semitic overtones, a claim the government rejected.

In the emailed statement Wednesday, Orban's spokesperson accused the foundation of wanting "to create an immigrant continent and an immigrant country."

Addressing the "Stop Soros" legislation, the OSF's Gaspard said that it had "become impossible to protect the security of our operations and our staff in Hungary from arbitrary government interference."

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.

Move follows $18 billion investment in OSF

Soros fled Hungary for Britain in the 1940s to escape Nazi occupation. His family later immigrated to the United States, where Soros became one of the most successful investors in the world.

He launched OSF in 1979, with the Hungarian office opening five years later. Since then, according to its website, OSF and its predecessor the Hungarian Soros Foundation have funded breakfasts for schoolchildren, supported programs to modernize the country's healthcare system, provided $8.6 million for Hungarians hit by the 2008 financial crisis and donated more than $250 million to help fund the Central European University in Budapest, which is also facing threats from recent legislation.

Last October, Soros moved $18 billion -- the majority of his estimated $24.6 billion fortune -- to the Open Society Foundations.

More than 100 staff members will be affected by the move to Berlin, 60% of whom are Hungarian nationals, according to OSF. "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.

Terre Haute
Clear
61° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 58°
Feels Like: 61°
Robinson
Clear
62° wxIcon
Hi: 80° Lo: 58°
Feels Like: 62°
Indianapolis
Clear
61° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 61°
Feels Like: 61°
Rockville
Clear
60° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 58°
Feels Like: 60°
Casey
Clear
63° wxIcon
Hi: 79° Lo: 58°
Feels Like: 63°
Brazil
Clear
61° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 57°
Feels Like: 61°
Marshall
Clear
61° wxIcon
Hi: 80° Lo: 57°
Feels Like: 61°
Mostly clear and cool evening.
WTHI Planner
WTHI Temps
WTHI Radar

WTHI Events

 

Illinois Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 7 p.m. CT)

Cases: 1419611

Reported Deaths: 25873
CountyCasesDeaths
Cook56409110566
DuPage940071321
Will783281042
Lake693631028
Kane60205816
Winnebago34822524
Madison32649536
St. Clair30275527
McHenry29684299
Peoria23771347
Champaign21705159
Sangamon19759246
McLean18931194
Tazewell17551309
Rock Island15422329
Kankakee14768224
Kendall13537100
LaSalle12987254
Macon11214215
DeKalb10305122
Vermilion10297154
Adams9751129
Williamson8266138
Whiteside7256174
Boone696580
Ogle630584
Grundy607479
Clinton594293
Coles5887101
Knox5743157
Jackson551265
Henry517170
Macoupin501090
Livingston495194
Woodford493783
Franklin492879
Stephenson489886
Effingham483974
Marion4836118
Jefferson4703123
Monroe453594
Randolph433987
Lee424354
Morgan415693
Fulton412159
Logan410066
Christian397575
Bureau386687
Montgomery386674
Iroquois331068
Perry330262
Fayette327456
McDonough308551
Jersey280252
Saline274057
Douglas265436
Union251842
Lawrence245527
Shelby237438
Crawford221126
Bond213924
Cass211527
Carroll205437
Pike203253
Ford195450
Hancock194932
Wayne192053
Clark191334
Warren186850
Jo Daviess184024
White183326
Richland182840
Edgar180942
Washington170125
Moultrie168728
Mason164847
De Witt161529
Piatt156914
Johnson156716
Clay156343
Greene155734
Mercer152534
Wabash150612
Massac146141
Cumberland131420
Menard128712
Jasper117018
Marshall111419
Hamilton91716
Schuyler8187
Brown8136
Pulaski7497
Stark66925
Edwards64212
Calhoun5442
Henderson53414
Scott5181
Gallatin5144
Alexander49511
Putnam4953
Hardin39712
Pope3464
Unassigned512432
Out of IL00

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 8 p.m. ET)

Cases: 771299

Reported Deaths: 14005
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1059471808
Lake570611031
Allen43193700
Hamilton37458426
St. Joseph37420568
Elkhart29819471
Tippecanoe23584231
Vanderburgh23431405
Porter19616327
Johnson18899394
Hendricks18168323
Clark13623199
Madison13604348
Vigo12908256
Monroe12626178
LaPorte12594225
Delaware11183198
Howard10747237
Kosciusko9810124
Hancock8799150
Bartholomew8296157
Warrick8150157
Floyd8072183
Grant7397181
Wayne7254201
Boone7236105
Morgan6948143
Marshall6358117
Dubois6301118
Cass6110112
Dearborn604078
Noble603590
Henry5971111
Jackson518677
Shelby512898
Lawrence4961127
Gibson467296
Montgomery461392
Clinton458455
DeKalb458485
Harrison456977
Huntington421382
Whitley418645
Steuben412861
Miami407273
Jasper402556
Knox393191
Putnam386862
Wabash371684
Adams355356
Ripley352771
Jefferson347187
White340954
Daviess3098100
Wells304881
Greene295985
Decatur293493
Fayette287464
Posey285435
Scott283458
LaGrange278472
Clay276049
Washington255637
Randolph248283
Jennings240449
Spencer239731
Fountain237250
Starke230859
Owen224759
Sullivan222943
Fulton209545
Jay203432
Carroll198822
Orange192756
Perry191939
Vermillion181944
Rush178627
Tipton173848
Franklin173035
Parke156816
Pike143434
Blackford138232
Pulaski124048
Newton123736
Benton110515
Brown106443
Crawford106316
Martin92715
Warren88015
Switzerland8488
Union73710
Ohio58411
Unassigned0429