It appears that Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has won a war of words with Hungarian-born American billionaire and investor George Soros as the latter’s Open Society Foundations is expected to complete the relocation of its Budapest office to Berlin on August 31.
“The decision by Soros’ New York-based foundation to uproot its Budapest office and move to Berlin — an echo of its effective expulsion from Russia in 2015 — was a wrenching one,” writes The Jerusalem Post, citing Csaba Csontos, a spokesperson for the magnate’s Open Society Foundations.
Soros and Orban crossed swords in April 2017 when the Hungarian government passed a law targeting the billionaire-founded Central European University (CEU) in the country. The legislation obliged foreign accredited universities to provide educational services in the countries of their origin. Still, while the Budapest-based CEU was accredited in the US it has never provided any educational services in this country.
Almost simultaneously, Hungary’s ruling party Fidesz kicked off a nationwide campaign “National Consultation 2017” over Brussels’ migration policies and apparently controversial political activities by Soros-related non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
In response, Soros accused Orban of establishing nothing short of a “mafia state,” while the Hungarian prime minister quickly retorted by saying that “the only network which operates in mafia ways… in Hungary is the Soros network.”
“This is a declaration of war, no doubt,” Orban told a national radio station on June 2, 2017.
The Hungarian prime minister has repeatedly lambasted George Soros for allegedly meddling in the country’s domestic affairs and supporting illegal immigration. Orban’s Fidesz party has accused the American investor of promoting a special “plan” to flood Europe with refugees. However, Orban is not the only politician who has cast doubt on the billionaire’s philanthropic activities.
In 2015, the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office banned Open Society Foundations and its affiliates in the country citing national security issues. In July 2017, the Israeli Foreign Ministry subjected Soros to harsh criticism over what it called “continuously undermining Israel’s democratically elected governments by funding organizations that defame the Jewish state.”
In February 2018, the so called “Stop Soros” bill was introduced in Hungary’s unicameral National Assembly, the country’s parliament. The bill envisioned banning NGOs that encourage migration and criminalizing unauthorized assistance to illegal immigrants.
On June 20, the bill was passed by the parliament. The move came as no surprise given the fact that the right-wing Fidesz party has a two-thirds majority in the National Assembly.
Mounting pressure from the Hungarian government finally sent Soros’ Budapest-based NGO packing. In May 2018, Open Society Foundations announced that it would close its headquarters in the Hungarian capital and move to Berlin.
“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,” Patrick Gaspard, president of the Open Society Foundations, stressed.
George Soros maintained a presence in Budapest from 1984 to 2018. Still, it appears that the magnate is not going to give up: “It is important to emphasize that although we will be based in Berlin, we will not be abolishing our support for the region,” said Peter Nizak, the head of the OSF Central Eastern Europe Program, as quoted by Deutsche Welle.