Open Society Foundations, funded by US billionaire George Soros, is closing its Budapest office and plans to open a new office in Berlin this summer, the Austrian Press Agency (APA) said on Thursday citing a report by Austrian daily Die Presse.
Die Presse said that OSF President Patrick Gaspard had announced the decision in Budapest. OSF, which also has an office in Vienna, declined to give a reason for the decision. APA said Soros apparently yields to the pressure of Hungary’s Orban government which has been campaigning against him. 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.
The new “Stop Soros” legislative package, which will be passed in May, puts a 25% tax on the foreign income of NGOs, among other restrictions and transparency measures.
Fidesz spox slams ‘pro-migration Soros organisation’ after court ruling
The Hungarian Helsinki Committee NGO is a “pro-migration Soros organisation”, Fidesz spokesman Janos Halasz said on Thursday after a court said Halasz did not bear personal responsibility for defaming the NGO but ordered the ruling party to pay a fine of 400,000 forints (EUR 1,300) and issue a public apology for claiming the organisation had operated in an unlawful and non-transparent manner.
The Hungarian Helsinki Committee said in a statement that the Metropolitan Court agreed with its complaint that Fidesz’s claims about the committee were false but Halasz’s personal responsibility had not been established. The court said Halasz was simply doing his job when he voiced the party’s position.
Responding to the ruling, Halasz told public media that the Hungarian Helsinki Committee was financed by US billionaire George Soros and served his aims. The NGO “is involved in the migrant business up to its jugular” and represents the interests of migrants in court procedures, such as in the case of two Bangladeshi migrants demanding millions in compensation from the Hungarian state, he added.
The committee regularly files complaints about Hungary in Brussels and at the United Nations, it cooperates in the preparation of reports written in Brussels condemning Hungary, and refuses to accept the outcome of the April 8 general election, Halasz said.
It is because of such “pro-migrant organisations threatening national security” that the new parliament to be formed in May should include the “Stop Soros” package of laws on its agenda as soon as possible, he added.
The NGO sued after Halasz told a press conference last April that the Hungarian Helsinki Committee and other NGOs had colluded to withhold information in the public interest requested by the daily Magyar Hirlap. At the time, he said: “These Soros organisations are secretive about their assets and the people they finance” and he claimed the Hungarian Helsinki Committee had broken the law.