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Soros foundation to leave Hungary

May 15, 2018

The foundation backed by the Hungarian-born US billionaire is set to move its staff to the German capital of Berlin. The move came after Hungary said it would tighten a law against foreign-funded NGOs.

Activists of Egyutt (Together) opposition party removes a government billboard displaying George Soros in monochrome
Image: Reuters/B. Szabo

The Open Society Foundations (OSF), backed by billionaire George Soros, will shut its office in Budapest and relocate to Berlin amid a political and legal crackdown against the organization, the OSF said on Tuesday.

The move follows a decision by the Hungarian government to tighten a bill dubbed "Stop Soros" that would restrict the work of Hungarian non-governmental organizations that receive foreign funding.

Read more:  George Soros' Open Society Foundations may move Budapest office to Berlin

What we know so far:

  • OSF President Patrick Gaspard said: "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."
  • "It has become impossible to protect the security of our operations and our staff in Hungary from arbitrary government interference," Gaspard said.
  • OSF said it would still support the work of civil society groups in Hungary after it had left. But it would "pursue all available legal avenues to defend the fundamental rights that are threatened by the [Stop Soros] legislation."
  • On Monday, Antal Rogan, the minister for Orban's cabinet office, said the government would propose a "tighter" Stop Soros bill without providing any details. He cited Orban's landslide reelection in April as giving the government a mandate for a stronger law.

Read more: Hungary's Viktor Orban targets critics with 'Soros mercenaries' blacklist

What would the Stop Soros law do? As it stands, the proposed law would allow the interior ministry to ban an NGO that deals with immigration if it posed a "national security risk." It would also introduce a 25 percent tax on foreign donations to NGOs that support migration.

Who is George Soros? Soros is a US billionaire and philanthropist who was born to a Jewish family in Hungary in 1930. He emigrated to the United States in 1956 and later began a successful career as an investor.

What is the OSF? The foundation supports and funds democracy and civil society initiatives in more than 100 countries worldwide. Soros is the founder and chair and has donated more than $32 billion (€27 billion) to the organization.

Soros-funded university to stay: Central European University, a Soros-backed graduate school, has also been fighting with the Hungarian government, but said on Tuesday it would stay in Budapest.

Read more: Hungary's Orban threatens pro-refugee NGOs, slams Muslim immigration

Cracking down on dissent in Hungary

amp/aw (Reuters, AFP)

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