The billionaire financier George Soros is to shut the Budapest office of his Open Society Foundation after threats from the Hungarian prime minister, press reports said last night.
Mr Soros will move the charity’s office away from Hungary, as the Hungarian government speeds up its objective to pass a law giving it powers to shut the charity down.
Before winning a third consecutive term in office this month, Viktor Orban demonised Mr Soros, accusing him of using his foundation to flood Hungary with Muslim migrants. A spokesman for the foundation did not respond to a request for comment.
Since taking office in 2010, Mr Orban has been criticised by the European Union for refusing migrant resettlement quotas. In 2015 he built a 109-mile barrier on the Serbian border to stop thousands of migrants from entering the country.
“We have a culture and, irrespective of what someone’s approach to God is, we call it a Christian culture,” he said after his re-election this month.
Mr Orban’s Fidesz Party has said that the government’s biggest priority now is passing the “Stop Soros” law, which would force charities that work with migrants, such as the Open Society Foundation, to obtain government permits to carry out their activities. Mr Soros, who is a Hungarian-American Jew, has invested $400 million into Hungarian social programmes since 1989. Of the 50 charities funded by his foundation in Hungary, four work with refugees. In a campaign speech, Mr Orban promised to exact revenge on his opponents if he won the election.
A spokesman for the Open Society Foundation has previously said that the government could use the new law to deny it permission to work in Hungary.
The Central European University in Budapest, which was founded by Mr Soros in 1991, has said that it is determined to stay in Budapest despite government pressure last year that seemed designed to close it down.
Charities including those funded by Mr Soros reported a dirty-tricks campaign by unknown operators in the run-up to the election, in which officials were secretly recorded at meetings with fake donors before the tapes were allegedly manipulated and published by government-friendly media in Hungary.
On one tape, the words of a former Soros staffer were allegedly twisted to make it sound as though the billionaire had 2,000 staff in Hungary. Mr Orban picked up on the recording, vowing to defeat Mr Soros’s 2,000 “mercenaries”.