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Hungary’s Orban Pushes Scrutiny on Soros-Funded Groups, Others


Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban speaks during a ceremony celebrating the national holiday, the 169th anniversary of the outbreak of the 1848 revolution and war of independence against the Habsburg rule at the Hungarian National Museum in Budapest, Hungary, March 15, 2017.

Hungary will push ahead with legislation to put foreign-funded nongovernmental organizations under more scrutiny, as those financed by billionaire George Soros operate as a “mafia-like” network, Prime Minister Viktor Orban said Friday.

Orban, a right-wing populist, has long criticized civil society organizations funded by Hungarian-born Soros, accusing them of opposing his tough migration policies and working as paid political activists advocating Soros’ goals.

The Hungarian premier, who faces elections in April 2018, said Soros’ statement Thursday that he admired “the courageous way Hungarians have resisted the deception and corruption of the mafia state Orban has established,” was a declaration of war.

“This is a declaration of war, no doubt,” Orban told state radio. “The only network which operates in mafia ways, which is not transparent ... in Hungary is the Soros network.”

“This is why we must insist, and I personally insist on having a parliament decision on making these organizations transparent,” Orban added.

Under legislation submitted to parliament by the government, nongovernmental organizations with foreign donations of at least 7.2 million forints ($26,000) will be required to register with authorities and declare themselves as foreign-funded. The NGOs have said the bill stigmatizes them.

People protest in Heroes’ Square against a new law that would undermine Central European University, a liberal graduate school of social sciences founded by U.S. financier George Soros in Budapest, Hungary, April 12, 2017.
People protest in Heroes’ Square against a new law that would undermine Central European University, a liberal graduate school of social sciences founded by U.S. financier George Soros in Budapest, Hungary, April 12, 2017.

Parliament is expected to pass the bill later this month despite mass protests by Hungarians at home, and a resolution passed in European Parliament that condemned what it called a “serious deterioration” in the rule of law and fundamental rights in Hungary.

Orban’s critics say the move against NGOs is part of his broader push to stifle dissenting voices and put independent institutions, including the judiciary and media, under closer government control.

Orban, in power since 2010, has often bashed the EU and repeatedly clashed with non-governmental organizations sponsored by Soros, who promotes a liberal and internationalist worldview that the nationalist-minded Hungarian leader dislikes.

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