They Published an Enemies List. The Response Was Unexpected

Pro-government magazine in Hungary publishes 200 names
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted May 15, 2018 11:25 AM CDT
In Hungary, High-Profile Fight Has Surprising Background
George Soros, founder of the Open Society Foundations, calls the Hungarian government "repressive."   (Olivier Hoslet, Pool Photo, File, via AP)

(Newser) – One of Hungary's most famous native sons is at odds with the country's newly re-elected prime minister in a political fight that has international implications. The dispute between billionaire philanthropist George Soros and Prime Minister Viktor Orban escalated Tuesday when Soros announced that he was closing his Open Society Foundations offices in Hungary and moving them to Berlin. Soros blames the "repressive" policies of Orban, while Orban accuses Soros of trying to flood Hungary and the rest of Europe with immigrants to undermine governments. A look at what's going on:

  • 'Stop Soros': Orban campaigned on a law known as "Stop Soros" designed to hobble non-government organizations such as the OSF, reports the BBC. Among other things, it would put a crippling 25% tax on foreign donations to programs designed to promote immigration.
  • Surprising tie: Back in 1988, a young Orban applied for and received a scholarship from the Soros organization to study how countries make the transition from dictatorships to democracies, reports the New York Times. "One of the main elements of this transition can be the rebirth of civil society," he wrote. Critics say he's doing precisely the opposite as prime minister. "That past connection makes the current moment that much more remarkable," writes Marc Santora.

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  • Enemies list, with a twist: In the days after Orban's victory, a pro-government magazine printed a list of 200 academics, human rights advocates, and others labeled as Soros "mercenaries." It was a modern-day enemies list, a throwback to a "darker time in Hungary's history," writes Griff Witte at the Washington Post. But it comes with a twist: Since its publication, about 8,000 people have signed an online petition asking to be added to the list.
  • The players: The 87-year-old Soros is a Jew who survived the Nazi occupation of Hungary and went on to make his fortune in the US markets. He has since spent an estimated $12 billion on initiatives such as reducing poverty around the world. Orban, 54, is an ardent foe of immigration who sees Soros as part of the "meddling, liberal elite," per the BBC. He's been in power since 2010, and he declared last week that the "era of liberal democracy is over" while vowing to uphold "Christian culture," per NPR and the Voice of Europe.
  • No letup: On Monday, Orban called the "Stop Soros" law "one of the most important questions of the election," reports the Times of Israel. "Hungarians voted for it, (and) what we said we would do, we will do." In pulling out of Hungary, the OSF released a statement denouncing a "hate campaign [that] has included propaganda posters and billboards, invoking anti-Semitic imagery from World War II." It also cited "an increasingly repressive political and legal environment."
  • University next? Central European University is a grad school started by Soros, and it said Tuesday that it's staying put in Hungary for now, reports Reuters. However, the school seen as a liberal "bastion" said it's prepared to leave unless the government provides assurances it will be allowed to function without interference, reports the Guardian.
(Read more Hungary stories.)

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