George Soros' foundation said yesterday it will close its office in Budapest and move to Berlin. The group said it was pulling out a day after the right-wing government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban announced it would tighten restrictions on nongovernmental organizations under a law dubbed the "Stop Soros" bill.
Orban, who won a landslide election victory last month, has repeatedly accused Soros and his organization of encouraging migrants and undermining national culture.
Soros's Open Society Foundations (OSF) organization said it would continue to support human rights work in Hungary as well as projects linked to the arts, media freedom, transparency, education and healthcare, but that it would move its Budapest-based international operations and staff to Germany. The Central European University, a graduate school started by U.S. billionaire George Soros, said yesterday it would stay in Hungary's capital despite a decision by its founder's foundation to leave. University rector Michael Ignatieff called on the government of Prime Minister Orban to formally recognize that the institution had complied with a set of new regulations and should be allowed to keep operating in Hungary.
As hundreds of thousands of people streamed through Hungary bound for Western Europe and with Budapest train stations resembling squalid refugee camps, Orban erected a fence on Hungary's border with Serbia. Illegal immigration – a "Trojan horse for terrorism" – was made punishable by lengthy jail terms. It was Hungary's duty to defend the outer frontier of Europe, just like against the Ottomans in the 17th century, Orban implied. His strident stance has turned Hungary along with Poland's like-minded government, which has also raised concerns with its own reforms, into a headache for Brussels and the rest of the EU. Soros, who was born in Hungary in 1930 and later survived the Nazi Holocaust before emigrating to the United States, and his foundation have been the target of harsh criticism from Hungary's strongman Orban and his right-wing nationalist government.
After Orban and his Fidesz Party won a landslide in parliamentary elections on April 8, the attacks on Soros and the OSF have increased. In June, the parliament in Budapest is expected to pass a law criminalizing the work of foreign organizations, especially those that help refugees, and many of these are supported by the OSF.