Tuesday

23rd Jul 2019

Soros tells EU to step up support for eastern states

Billionaire investor George Soros has said the European Union must do more to help its struggling eastern region, including a fast-tracking of member state applications to join the euro currency.

In an interview with EUobserver on Thursday (12 November), he also called on the EU to develop a dedicated strategy to alleviate the difficulties faced by the region's Roma population.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

  • The EU is not meeting its obligations to eastern states says Soros (Photo: World Economic Forum)

"Europe has a responsibility because the financial system of eastern countries is in the hands of western banks. And that's what has infected eastern Europe," he said. "Europe has a responsibility to which it is not living up to."

The world-famous currency speculator and philanthropist points to the hardships currently endured by Latvian citizens, and argues their entry into euro area ahead of the current schedule would have a minimal impact on the common currency of the 16-member eurozone.

"It would actually improve the conditions of Latvia tremendously without really hurting the euro," he said.

Eastern Europe was struck particularly hard by last year's financial crisis, with foreign denominated debts, imploding housing bubbles and falling exports proving to be a toxic mix.

Latvia, Romania and Hungary have all been forced to tap International Monetary Fund and EU loans in a bid to tackle balance of payments problems, with governments also falling this year in the former two.

While the difficulties continue, senior European officials, including the president of the European Central Bank, Jean-Claude Trichet, have grown increasingly alarmed at the rising strength of the euro against the dollar in recent months, fearing it could slow exports and dampened the union's nascent economic recovery.

As a result, the possibility of a small depreciation caused by the accession of certain eastern states would be beneficial, said Mr Soros. "The euro is too strong as it is and has a tendency to rise further," he warned.

The euro's strength is no reflection of the group's weak economy, say analysts, being more the result of the currency's 'anti-dollar' status as a popular port of call for currency investors when the dollar is weak.

Time for a dedicated Roma strategy

Known for his currency gamble in September 1992 that famously "broke the Bank of England" and earned him a cool $1.1 billion, Mr Soros is in Brussels to attend an international donor conference which successfully raised €25 million for the Roma Education Fund.

The Hungarian-born 79-year-old said EU citizens are unaware of the poor levels of education and the terrible living conditions that many Roma have suffered since the fall of Communism and the subsequent job cuts in heavy industry that followed in eastern Europe.

Compounding the problem is the frequent hostility shown towards Romani individuals by members of the general population who see them as a security threat.

"You now have parties in Hungary and Bulgaria that feed on the resentment felt towards the Roma," said Mr Soros, who welcomes the positive contribution made by the EU so far, but adds that more needs to be done.

"I think the European Union needs to develop a Roma strategy," he says, and is confident that progress can be made in this area under the upcoming Spanish EU presidency, a country that has had considerable success in integrating its Roma population.

EU funding for the Roma population comes largely from the European Social Fund, with the last programming period (2000-2006) seeing some €275 million go to projects specifically targeted at the group.

In 2005, twelve European countries launched the Decade of Roma Inclusion, a project that aims to improve the socio-economic conditions of Europe's largest minority that numbers into the many millions but has not been accurately quantified.

Recent EU enlargements, combined with the bloc's freedom of movement laws, have resulted in a steady march westwards of Roma communities, with Italy and Spain the main recipients.

The results have frequently been explosive, not least in Italy where murders blamed on Romani individuals have resulted in revenge attacks by vigilante groups.

Soros-linked NGOs defy Orban purge

Hungarian NGOs funded by philanthropist George Soros have vowed to defy prime minister Viktor Orban’s plan to “sweep them out” of the country.

Anti-Soros university bill sparks protest in Budapest

Thousands gathered around the Central European University on Tuesday to protest against a legislative bill that targets it, while the US embassy and the German president expressed their support for the institution.

EU hesitates to back France over US tariff threat

France has passed a new tax on tech companies that will affect US global giants like Facebook. Donald Trump has threatened retaliatory tariffs over it. The EU commission says it will "coordinate closely with French" on the next steps.

EU banks more vulnerable to shocks than feared

Eurozone banks, such as Deutsche Bank, might be much more vulnerable to a repeat of the 2008 financial crisis than EU "stress-tests" have said, according to a new audit.

News in Brief

  1. Johnson is next British prime minister
  2. Johnson set to be announced British PM on Tuesday
  3. UK-based owners of .eu domains could keep name
  4. Weyand: EU would respond to US tariffs on cars
  5. UK foreign office minister quits ahead of Johnson as PM
  6. AKK to boost Bundeswehr budget to Nato target
  7. Police arrest 25 after Polish LGBT-march attack
  8. Ukrainian president's party tops parliament election

Feature

Romania enlists priests to promote euro switchover plan

Romania is due to join the single currency in 2024 - despite currently only meeting one of the four criteria. Now the government in Bucharest is enlisting an unlikely ally to promote the euro to the public: the clergy.

Trump and Kurz: not best friends, after all

The visit of Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz to the White House on Wednesday showed that the current rift in transatlantic relations is deepening by the day.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  5. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  7. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  8. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  9. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  10. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North

Latest News

  1. Macron: 14 EU states agree on a migration 'mechanism'
  2. As Johnson set to become PM, ministers pledge to resign
  3. Poland's PiS prepares 'failsafe' for October election
  4. Abortion Wars
  5. EU goes on holiday as new UK PM arrives This WEEK
  6. Survey: Half of EU staff 'don't know' ethics rules
  7. Von der Leyen signals soft touch on migrants, rule of law
  8. Timmermans: von der Leyen will be tough on rule of law

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  3. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  4. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  7. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  9. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  12. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us