Soros basis to give up Hungary after conflict with authorities

Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban smiles prior to a swearing-in ceremony for members of the new Hungarian parliament
Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban smiles prior to a swearing-in ceremony for members of the new Hungarian parliament

16 May, 2018

Open Society Foundations will move its global operations in Budapest to Berlin in Germany, according to a press release Tuesday.

"The decision to move operations out of Budapest comes as the Hungarian government prepares to impose further restrictions on non-governmental organizations through what it has branded its "Stop Soros" package of legislation", it continued. University rector Michael Ignatieff called on the government of Prime Minister Orban to formally recognize that the institution had complied with a set of new regulations and should be allowed to keep operating in Hungary.

Soros's Open Society Foundations (OSF) organisation said it would continue to support human rights work in Hungary as well as projects linked to arts, media freedom, transparency, education and health care.

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 law was termed the "Stop Soros" bill.

Over the past two years, the Hungarian government has spent more than 100 million euros in public funds on a campaign to spread lies about the Foundations and their partners.

The "open society Institute" George Soros announced the termination of its activities in Hungary, the birthplace of the philanthropist, because of the "repressive" policy of the Hungarian government.

A Hungarian government billboard featuring George Soros, with the words translated to "Don't let George Soros have the last laugh" is seen at a transit stop in Budapest on July 6, 2017.

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Critics say Orban has used his long tenure to systematically eliminate the free media and slide the country towards autocracy.

Orban, who won a landslide election victory last month, has repeatedly accused Soros and his organization of encouraging migrants and undermining the national culture.

George Soros, founder and chairman of the Open Society Foundation, waits for the start of a meeting at European Union headquarters in Brussels on April 27, 2017.

OSF said more than 100 OSF staff in Budapest would be affected by the move to Berlin, around 60 percent of whom are Hungarian nationals.

"Orban is now trying to elevate the conservative revolution in Europe. and they believe this is going to strengthen Hungary's position in Europe", said Balazs Jarabik, non-resident scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Among a host of restrictive measures, it would force NGOs that help migrants to undergo security screening and pay a 25 per cent tax on all foreign funding.

With Open Society deciding to leave, Jarabik said Orban has now achieved one of his primary goals of forcing out political foes.

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