BUDAPEST (Reuters) – George Soros’ Open Society Foundations will close their office in Budapest and move their eastern European operations to Berlin, Austria’s Die Presse newspaper reported on Thursday.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has blamed Soros, a Hungarian-born U.S. financier, for a host of ills and pushed through legislation cracking down on non-governmental organizations called the “Stop Soros” laws which drew international criticism.
The Hungarian news web site 444.hu said the Open Society Foundations office would shut by Aug. 31 and move first to Vienna then on to Berlin.
Reuters was not been able to immediately reach the Open Society Foundations either in Budapest or New York.
The move follows the re-election of Prime Minister Viktor Orban for a third consecutive term earlier this month, after a campaign demonizing Hungarian-born Holocaust survivor Soros and promising a crackdown against NGOs he supports. Orban has condemned the European Union’s liberal democratic model, based on checks and balances and a thriving civil society, and has pledged to create an “illiberal state” modeled on countries such as Russia or Turkey.
On Thursday, pro-government magazine Figyelo published a blacklist with the names of 200 Orban critics. The list, dubbed “the investors’ people” and spanning two whole pages, includes academics, journalists and nongovernmental organization workers, labeling them “mercenaries” of US-Hungarian billionaire investor George Soros. The accompanying article claims that one hundred individuals have been identified who work for and belong to Soros’ Hungarian network.