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16 October 2015
Billionaire plutocrat Soros comes under fire in Hungary
Hedge fund mogul George Soros has come under fire in his native Hungary, where politicians have accused him of supporting illegal migration amidst a refugee crisis that's brought the right-wing government under pressure.
Government representatives including Prime Minister Viktor Orban have slammed Soros in recent weeks for promoting liberal migrant policies and backing a variety of organizations through his pro-democracy charity that have criticized the way Orban's government has dealt with the crisis.
In opinion pieces published by the Financial Times and Project Syndicate, Soros has said frontline states like Hungary were shirking their asylum obligations, and controversially suggested that a comprehensive European refugee plan should provide each asylum seeker with $16,800 annually for two years to help cover housing, health care and education costs.
"[Soros] keeps bombarding the international public with his earth-shattering plans, quite obviously, in the name of true selflessness which he has manifested in so many ways in the countries where his activities have resulted in sovereign default in the past 30 years," Hungarian Minister János Lázár, who currently heads the Prime Minister's Office, said at a press conference earlier this month.
Orban's regime itself has been lambasted by fellow EU leaders for its tough stance on migration, following the construction of a four-meter high fence along sections of its border with Serbia to block further border crossings. The prime minister has also made controversial claims, including those which suggest Hungarians "do not want a multicultural society."
Soros, who is best known for his namesake Soros Fund Management firm, is also the founder of a charity network under the Open Society Foundations (OSF) umbrella, which runs many of its programs out of the Hungarian capital of Budapest.
In a September statement on the migrant crisis in Hungary, OSF warned officials to scale back their attacks on migrants.
"We urge caution in the language used to debate the refugee crisis by public officers. The rhetoric of fear and repression may contribute to discriminatory and even violent attitudes towards refugees," OSF said in a September statement.
"The Hungarian crisis demonstrates the dangers radical populist regimes pose not only to the hundreds of thousands of refugees, but also to the values of Europe and to the humanity of the local populations," the release went on to say.
During an interview with Hungarian channel TV2, Orban said many civil society organizations supported by Soros have "launched themselves into action. They all demand that the Government leave the border open."
However, Orban denied media interpretations of a previous speech that suggested charitable organizations were conspiring to serve foreign interests. Instead, he called for transparency: "I ask civil society organizations active in Hungary to reveal who their supporters are and what amounts they receive from them."
It's not the first time OSF and Soros have hit a sore spot in eastern Europe. OSF came into trouble with the Russian government in July, which nearly banned the foundations alongside a number of pro-democracy organizations accused of launching "soft aggression" in the country.
An OSF spokesperson told CNBC the organization is determined to continue supporting Russians who seek its assistance, as long as it is within the network's mandate and remains in legal limits.
OSF went on to highlight its 30-year track record in charitable work in Hungary.
"The foundations have supported many issues including defending human rights for all, supporting early childhood development and working with Roma communities, and during the peak of the economic crisis the foundations provided emergency support to local groups in Hungary helping those hardest hit."