Soros foundation leaves Budapest

“Faced with an increasingly repressive political and legal environment in Hungary,” the Open Society Foundations (OSF) are moving their Budapest-based international operations and staff to Berlin, the foundation wrote in its statement on Tuesday.

The decision to move operations out of Budapest comes as the Hungarian government prepares to impose further restrictions on nongovernmental organizations through what it has branded its “Stop Soros” package of legislation, the statement reads. According to the Hungarian government, the aim of the legislative package is to ensure the transparency of foreign-funded NGOs and restrict the operation of those who support illegal immigration.

“The government of Hungary has denigrated and misrepresented our work and repressed civil society for the sake of political gain, using tactics unprecedented in the history of the European Union,” said Patrick Gaspard, president of the Open Society Foundations. “The so-called Stop Soros package of laws is only the latest in a series of such attempts. It has become impossible to protect the security of our operations and our staff in Hungary from arbitrary government interference.”

On Monday,  Antal Rogan said before Parliament’s Justice Committee prior to his appointment as head of the Cabinet Office of the Prime Minister, that the government is planning to make the Stop Soros legislative package stricter, which also requires the establishment of the necessary constitutional foundations. The new legislation must prevent all activities aimed at bringing illegal immigrants into Hungary’s territory with the circumvention of Hungarian law and in violation of national sovereignty, he stated. During his visit to Warsaw, Prime Minister Viktor Orban said that the “Stop Soros” legislative package and the draft amendment to the Constitution will be submitted to Parliament as soon as the new Hungarian government is formed and has conducted its first Cabinet meeting.

Talking to the Washington Post on Tuesday, the Central European University’s (CEU) president, Michael Ignatieff said that if he doesn’t receive the approval this summer, the university will be “forced” to move to Vienna. “The school scrambled to satisfy the rules and reached a preliminary deal with the government last fall to keep CEU in the nation’s capital. The agreement still awaits Orban’s signature, and the prime minister has been coy about whether he intends to give it,” the article says.

In a press release on Tuesday, CEU reaffirmed “its determination to remain in Budapest and to fulfill its teaching and research mission in the city that has been our home for the past 26 years”. “On April 13, senior Hungarian officials visited CEU’s academic site at Bard College in the State of New York and conducted talks with CEU leadership. Officials from the New York State Education Department were also present. As a result of this visit, CEU believes we are now in full compliance with the lex CEU requirement to conduct educational activities in the U.S. The only remaining step to resolve this issue is for the Government of Hungary to sign the agreement with the State of New York that has been on the table since September 2017”, the statement adds.

 “CEU cannot go into another academic year in a situation of legal uncertainty. We call on the government to sign the agreement without further delay,”

Ignatieff adds.

Hungary Journal

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