Hun­gary’s Or­ban re­news at­tack on in­flu­ence of Ge­orge Soros

Cape Breton Post - - WORLD -

Hun­gary’s pop­ulist prime min­is­ter on Fri­day lashed out against bil­lion­aire fi­nancier Ge­orge Soros, claim­ing he and groups backed by him want to se­cretly in­flu­ence the coun­try’s pol­i­tics.

In his an­nual state of the na­tion speech, Vik­tor Or­ban said groups partly funded by Soros, who was born in Hun­gary, needed to be made trans­par­ent and iden­ti­fi­able.

“Large-bod­ied preda­tors are swim­ming here in the wa­ters. This is the trans-bor­der em­pire of Ge­orge Soros, with tons of money and in­ter­na­tional heavy ar­tillery,’’ said Or­ban, who re­ceived a Soros-funded schol­ar­ship as Hun­gary was tran­si­tion­ing from com­mu­nism to democ­racy in the late 1980s.

“It is caus­ing trou­ble ... that they are try­ing se­cretly and with for­eign money to in­flu­ence Hun­gar­ian pol­i­tics,’’ Or­ban said.

He did not cite ev­i­dence back­ing his claims, and did not iden­tify the groups he men­tioned. Gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials had ear­lier taken aim at cor­rup­tion watch­dog Trans­parency In­ter­na­tional and rights groups like the Hun­gar­ian Helsinki Com­mit­tee and the Hun­gar­ian Civil Lib­er­ties Union.

In 2014, Or­ban or­dered a crack­down on civic groups sup­ported in part by Nor­way, but ex­ten­sive in­ves­ti­ga­tions and au­dits did not un­cover any fi­nan­cial ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties of note.

In an email to The As­so­ci­ated Press, a Soros rep­re­sen­ta­tive said they were “proud to sup­port Hun­gar­i­ans who in­sist on hav­ing a voice in their democ­racy.’’

“The Open So­ci­ety Foun­da­tions for over 30 years have sup­ported civil so­ci­ety groups in Hun­gary who are ad­dress­ing pro­found prob­lems in ed­u­ca­tion, health care, me­dia free­dom and cor­rup­tion,’’ said Laura Sil­ber, the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s chief com­mu­ni­ca­tions of­fi­cer. “Any at­tacks on this work and those groups are solely an at­tempt to de­flect at­ten­tion from gov­ern­ment in­abil­ity to ad­dress th­ese is­sues.’’

Or­ban also claimed that Soros’ or­ga­ni­za­tions were still work­ing on bring­ing hun­dreds of thou­sands of mi­grants into Europe, con­trary to the wishes of Hun­gar­i­ans and their gov­ern­ment.

Or­ban has been out­spo­ken about his strong op­po­si­tion to tak­ing in refugees and mi­grants, and in 2015 or­dered fences built on Hun­gary’s south­ern bor­ders with Ser­bia and Croa­tia to stop the mi­grant flow.

On Fri­day, he re­it­er­ated a gov­ern­ment plan to keep mi­grants in bor­der camps built from ship­ping con­tain­ers while their asy­lum ap­pli­ca­tions are be­ing pro­cessed.

The pro­posal drew strong crit­i­cism from lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional rights groups, which said it was clearly against EU law and the United Na­tions Refugee Con­ven­tion.

Amnesty In­ter­na­tional said the plan was “yet an­other dis­turb­ing move in a pat­tern of de­mo­niz­ing’’ refugees.

“Round­ing up all men, women and chil­dren seek­ing asy­lum and de­tain­ing them months on end in con­tainer camps is a new low in Hun­gary’s race to the bot­tom on asy­lum seek­ers and refugees,’’ said Gauri van Gu­lik, Amnesty In­ter­na­tional’s deputy di­rec­tor for Europe.

Or­ban also painted a bleak pic­ture of West­ern Europe, say­ing its “fu­ture is cast­ing a long and dark shadow on its present.’’

He joked that Hun­gary was ready to take in West­ern Euro­peans, whom he said are suf­fer­ing from glob­al­iza­tion’s ef­fects.

“Nat­u­rally, we will take in the real refugees,’’ Or­ban said to laugh­ter and loud ap­plause. “The pan­icked Ger­man, Dutch, French and Ital­ian politi­cians and jour­nal­ists, Chris­tians forced to leave their coun­tries who want to find here the Europe they lost at home.’’

AP PHOTO

Hun­gar­ian Prime Min­is­ter Vik­tor Or­ban de­liv­ers his an­nual ‘State of Hun­gary’ speech in the Vark­ert Bazar (Cas­tle Gar­dens Bazaar) at the foot of Cas­tle Hill in Bu­dapest, Hun­gary, Fri­day.

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