19th Mar 2018

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.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • 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.

Merkel in Paris for eurozone reform talks

Angela Merkel - who started her fourth term as Germany's chancellor earlier this week - is wasting no time on big issues like eurozone reforms. On Friday she is meeting Emmanuel Macron where the two will seek common ground.

EU insists on US tariffs exemption

Europe is "an ally, not a threat", the EU Commission says - as the US is poised to impose duties in steel and aluminium. Common action on Chinese steel overcapacity could help diffuse the crisis.

Trump starts countdown to EU trade war

EU sales of steel to US to face 25 percent tariff from 23 March, with Europe to hit back on motorbikes and bourbon in looming trade war.

VW dismisses complaints on Dieselgate fix

'I think customers who want to get information (...) are able to receive information if they want," VW management board member Hiltrud Werner told EUobserver. Consumer groups disagree.

News in Brief

  1. Sweden emerges as possible US-North Korean summit host
  2. Google accused of paying academics backing its policies
  3. New interior minister: 'Islam doesn't belong to Germany'
  4. Hamburg 'dieselgate' driver wins case to get new VW car
  5. Slovak deputy PM asked to form new government
  6. US, Germany, France condemn 'assault on UK sovereignty'
  7. MEPs accept Amsterdam as seat for EU medicines agency
  8. Auditors: EU farm 'simplification' made subsidies more complex

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceConmtroversial Turkish Azerbaijani Gas Pipeline Gets Major EU Loan
  2. World VisionSyria’s Children ‘At Risk of Never Fully Recovering', New Study Finds
  3. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMeets with US Congress Member to Denounce Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  4. Martens CentreEuropean Defence Union: Time to Aim High?
  5. UNESDAWatch UNESDA’s President Toast Its 60th Anniversary Year
  6. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Condemns MEP Ana Gomes’s Anti-Semitic Remark, Calls for Disciplinary Action
  7. EPSUEU Commissioners Deny 9.8 Million Workers Legal Minimum Standards on Information Rights
  8. ACCAAppropriate Risk Management is Crucial for Effective Strategic Leadership
  9. EPSUWill the Circular Economy be an Economy With no Workers?
  10. European Jewish CongressThe 2018 European Medal of Tolerance Goes to Prince Albert II of Monaco
  11. FiscalNoteGlobal Policy Trends: What to Watch in 2018
  12. Human Rights and Democracy NetworkPromoting Human Rights and Democracy in the Next Eu Multiannual Financial Framework

Latest News

  1. Brexit and trade will top This WEEK
  2. Dutch MPs in plan to shut EU website on Russian propaganda
  3. Four years on – but we will not forget illegally-occupied Crimea
  4. Evacuated women from Libya arrive newly-pregnant
  5. Merkel in Paris for eurozone reform talks
  6. Commission rejects ombudsman criticism over Barroso case
  7. Western allies back UK amid Russian media blitz
  8. Meet the European Parliament's twittersphere

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUDigital Cooperation a Priority for China-EU Relations
  2. ECTACompetition must prevail in the quest for telecoms investment
  3. European Friends of ArmeniaTaking Stock of 30 Years of EU Policy on the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict: How Can the EU Contribute to Peace?
  4. ILGA EuropeCongratulations Finland!
  5. EUobserverNow Hiring! Sales Associate With 2+ Years Experience
  6. EUobserverNow Hiring! Finance Officer With Accounting Degree or Experience
  7. UNICEFCyclone Season Looms Over 720,000 Rohingya Children in Myanmar & Bangladesh
  8. European Gaming & Betting AssociationEU Court: EU Commission Correct to Issue Guidelines for Online Gambling Services
  9. Mission of China to the EUChina Hopes for More Exchanges With Nordic, Baltic Countries
  10. Macedonian Human Rights MovementCondemns Facebook for Actively Promoting Anti-Macedonian Racism
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersGlobal Seed Vault: Gene Banks Gather to Celebrate 1 Million Seed Collections
  12. CECEIndustry Stakeholders Are Ready to Take the Lead in Digital Construction