Thursday

13th May 2021

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.

The Hungarian Helsinki Committee was one of several which said on Wednesday (12 January) that the planned purge was “unacceptable”.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

The Helsinki group’s co-chair, Andras Kristof Kadar, told the ATV broadcaster that its work was non-political and designed to defend UN norms.

“When we criticise the government’s position on migration, then we want to hold the government accountable to the Geneva Convention and relevant EU norms,” he said.

The Soros-chaired Open Society Foundations (OSF), which is based in New York and which funds over 60 Hungarian NGOs, also vowed to defy Orban.

“[We] will continue to work in Hungary despite government opposition to our mission of fairer, accountable societies,” the OSF president, Christopher Stone, said on Wednesday.

They spoke out after Orban’s political party, Fidesz, on Tuesday said that the state would use “all tools at its disposal” to “sweep out” Soros-linked groups.

Soros, a Hungarian-born financier who lives in New York, has spent more than $1.6 billion promoting democratic development in central Europe.

The 86-year old survived the persecution of Jews in Hungary and fled the then communist country in 1947.

He used to work with Fidesz when it was an anti-communist party in the 1980s and a Soros scholarship even paid for Orban to go to Oxford University in 1989.

But Orban, now a self-proclaimed “illiberal”, clashed with civil society, as well as with the EU and the US, after he began to impose curbs on free press and on constitutional checks and balances.

He has also clashed with NGOs and with the EU on immigration, while accusing Soros of representing “intelligence connections” and of "organising refugee streams”.

The Fidesz party’s vice-chairman, Szilard Nemeth, said on Tuesday that the Hungarian Helsinki Committee, the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union, and Transparency International were among Soros-linked NGOs that had to go.

Trump effect

He also said that the purge was made possible by “an international opportunity”, alluding to the election of Donald Trump in the US.

Trump and Soros are also on bad terms, with Orban now expecting to get an easier ride from Washington.

Trump in a campaign ad called Soros part of “a global power structure that is responsible for the economic decisions” that had robbed the working classes, while Soros has called Trump a “con artist” and a “would-be dictator”.

Orban was the first EU leader to welcome Trump’s election and has cultivated ties with Russian president Vladimir Putin.

The Orban crackdown on NGOs began in earnest in 2014 whenhe expelled entities funded by the Norway Grants .

In a similar move, Putin designated the OSF as an “undesirable” foreign entity that threatened Russia’s security one year later.

Democracy crisis

The Russian leader will visit Budapest on 2 February, just two years after his last trip there.

Soros wrote in a recent opinion article that “democracy is now in crisis" in Europe.

"With economic growth lagging and the refugee crisis out of control, the EU is on the verge of breakdown and is set to undergo an experience similar to that of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s,” he warned.

Soros to EU: Help 'new Ukraine' against 'new Russia'

US philanthropist George Soros has said the EU needs to support "new Ukraine" in its struggle against Putin's "new Russia". His words came as Ukraine's President ended a unilateral ceasefire with separatists in the east of the country.

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.

Interview

Polish government in bid to defund NGOs

Ruling Law and Justice has promised to overhaul the NGO sector. The move could strain relations with Norway, a major donor to Polish civic life.

Croatia and Hungary are 'new face of corruption'

Transparency International said the crackdown on civil society in Croatia and Hungary "under the guise of a nationalist, ‘illiberal’ agenda" represented the new face of corruption in Europe.

News in Brief

  1. No EUobserver newsletter on Friday 14 May
  2. Germany stops Facebook gathering WhatsApp data
  3. Italy rebuts reports of EU deal with Libya
  4. MEPs demand EU states protect women's reproductive rights
  5. At least nine dead in Russia school shooting
  6. Bulgaria interim government appointed until July election
  7. German priests defy pope to bless same-sex couples
  8. New EU public prosecutor faults Slovenia

EU adds new 'dark red' zone to travel-restrictions map

The European Commission has proposed additional measures to limit non-essential travel within and to the European Union - amid fears over more transmissible mutations triggering a new surge in cases across the bloc.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council enters into formal relations with European Parliament
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen more active in violent extremist circles than first assumed
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersDigitalisation can help us pick up the green pace
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID19 is a wake-up call in the fight against antibiotic resistance
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region can and should play a leading role in Europe’s digital development
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council to host EU webinars on energy, digitalisation and antibiotic resistance

Latest News

  1. EU aims at 'zero pollution' in air, water and soil by 2050
  2. French police arrest Luxembourg former top spy
  3. Vaccine drives spur better-than-expected EU economic recovery
  4. Slovenia causing headaches for new EU anti-graft office
  5. 'No place to hide' in Gaza, as fighting escalates
  6. EU chases 90m AstraZeneca vaccines in fresh legal battle
  7. Fidesz MEP oversees FOI appeals on disgraced Fidesz MEP
  8. Belgium outlines summer Covid relaxation plans

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us