The George Soros foundation says it is being forced to close its offices in Hungary
The philanthropic foundation funded by the billionaire George Soros is to close its offices in Hungary, saying it can’t protect its own staff from the country’s government.
Open Society Foundations will move its international operations in Budapest to Berlin in Germany, according to a press release Tuesday.
“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,” said Patrick Gaspard, president of the Open Society Foundations.
The Hungarian government, led by the recently re-elected Viktor Orban, won a strong mandate by campaigning on the issue of migration, which included the promise of a “stop Soros” package.
Orban launched a nationwide television and billboard advertising campaign in July accusing Soros of devising Europe’s refugee crisis. Critics of Orban’s drive to condemn the 87-year-old investor said posters were not dissimilar to the anti-Semitic imagery of the 1930s, which portrayed Jews as political manipulators.
Open Society Foundations said its people had also been targeted by secret recording efforts by the government.
Orban now wants to enact laws that force non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to register with the government. Foreign funding for activities related to migration would be subjected to a 25 percent tax.
Open Society Foundations said Tuesday that it would seek legal routes to challenge the new legislation.
“The so-called Stop Soros package of laws is only the latest in a series of such attempts. It has become impossible to protect the security of our operations and our staff in Hungary from arbitrary government interference,” Gaspard added.
Open Society Foundations said moving operations out of Hungary would impact around 100 staff. It added it was taking steps regarding the safety of those affected by the relocation.