Tuesday

23rd Jul 2019

US billionaire Soros warns EU of 'existential danger'

The European Union is in "existential danger" because of "dysfunctional" institutions, a persistent austerity policy and outdated treaties, American billionaire George Soros warned in Brussels on Thursday (1 June).

The Hungarian-born philanthropist, who was speaking at the Brussels Economic Forum, said the EU should use the Brexit negotiations to introduce far-reaching reforms and be "radically reinvented", otherwise it risks ceasing to exist.

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

"If the European Union carries on with business as usual, there is little hope for an improvement," he said, adding that the bloc was surrounded by "hostile powers", such as Russia, Turkey, Egypt, and, possibly US president Donald Trump's administration.

Soros said that he was encouraged by the "energetic way" EU institutions have responded to the autocratic challenges emerging from Hungary and Poland, which have come under a European Commission probe over rule of law concerns.

Soros himself has been a target of Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban, who is accusing him of wanting to bring a million refugees into Europe and who denounces his support of liberal causes.

In a speech in the European Parliament in April, Orban, who was once himself a recipient of a Soros scholarship, called him a "financial speculator" who is attacking Hungary.

The 86-year old Holocaust survivor who escaped communist Hungary in 1947 is also regularly depicted as a bogeyman, from the US to Macedonia, by conservative politicians and some authoritarian leaders for supporting liberal issues and groups.

"I am full of admiration for the courageous way the Hungarian people have resisted the deception and corruption of the mafia state the Orban regime has established," Soros said in Brussels about recent demonstrations to protest Orban's actions against Soros-supported activities.

Orban's latest measures include an attempt to stifle the Soros-founded Central European University in Budapest and to crack down on NGOs supported by Soros' Open Society Foundations. The measures came under scrutiny by the European Commission.

Orban's critics often use the term "mafia state" to illustrate the level of corruption in the country, as Orban and his closest circle is getting richer often by channeling EU funds their way.

Soros, who made billions as a speculator, told his Brussels audience that the 2008 global financial crisis hit the European banking system harder than the United States, and called it a tipping point in the EU's move from integration towards disintegration.

Germany "felt neither politically motivated nor rich enough to remain the motor of further integration," Soros said.

He added that the EU has been governed under "outdated treaties" since the financial crisis, making the EU "dysfunctional in some ways".

Soros said the austerity policy forced on debtor countries made it impossible for them to get out of their debt, and perverted the idea of the eurozone as a voluntary and equal union of common currency.

'Multi-track' Europe

He argued that the way to change the trend is to reform the EU by combining the "top-down approach of the EU institutions with the bottom-up movements that are necessary to engage the electorate".

"Most Europeans of my generation were supporters of further integration. Subsequent generations came to regard the EU as an enemy that deprives them of a secure and promising future," Soros told the audience.

"This feeling was reinforced by the rise of anti-European, xenophobic parties that are motivated by values that are diametrically opposed to the values on which the European Union was founded," he added.

He spoke of an emerging pro-European momentum that might turn the populist tide around as xenophobic forces lost ground in the Dutch and French elections earlier this year and seem to be falling behind in Germany as well, where elections will be held in September.

Soros said the term "ever closer union", something the UK had strongly resisted in the past, should be abandoned.

He argued, that instead of a "multi-speed" Europe, a "multi-track" Europe should be the aim "that would allow member states a wider variety of choices".

"Member states want to reassert their sovereignty rather than surrendering more of it," the Hungarian-born billionaire said.

He urged the EU to act in unison on three issues: territorial disintegration (as highlighted by Brexit), the refugee crisis, and the lack of adequate economic growth. Soros argued if cooperation on these bring positive results, EU countries might be more willing to work together closely.

Brexit will hurt

Soros urged the EU to conduct the Brexit negotiations in "constructive spirit" and resist the urge to punish the UK for leaving the bloc.

"Brexit will be an immensely damaging process, harmful to both sides," he said, adding that the divorce could take as long as five years.

According to EU rules, exit negotiations will have to be wrapped up in two years, with the UK leaving the EU in March 2019.

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.

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.

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.

News in Brief

  1. UK foreign office minister quits ahead of Johnson as PM
  2. AKK to boost Bundeswehr budget to Nato target
  3. Police arrest 25 after Polish LGBT-march attack
  4. Ukrainian president's party tops parliament election
  5. EU interior ministers to meet in Paris on migration
  6. Schinas nominated as Greek commissioner
  7. Sea-Watch captain hopes for change in EU migrant rules
  8. Russia willing to join EU payment scheme on Iran deal

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

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