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George Soros Foundation to move office from Hungary



BUDAPEST (Reuters) – The George Soros Foundation said Tuesday it will close its office in Budapest and move to Berlin, leaving behind "an increasingly repressive political and legal environment" in Hungary.

FILE PHOTO – The shield of the Open Society Foundations (OSF) by George Soros can be seen in a building in Budapest, Hungary on April 20, 201
8. REUTERS / Bernadett Szabo / archival photo

The pro-democracy group said it moved a day after Prime Minister Viktor Orban's right-wing government announced plans to tighten restrictions on non-governmental organizations, according to a law called "Stop Soros" has been.

Orban, who won a landslide electoral victory last month, repeatedly accused Soros and his organization of encouraging migrants and undermining national culture.

The Soros Open Society Foundations (OSF) said it would continue to support human rights work in Hungary as well as projects in the areas of art, media freedom, transparency, education and health care.

But it would relocate its Budapest-based international operations and staff to Germany.

FILE PHOTO: The headquarters of the Open Society Foundations (OSF) of George Soros will be seen on April 20, 2018 in Budapest, Hungary. REUTERS / Bernadett Szabo / Archivfoto

"The Hungarian government has vilified our country and misrepresented work and oppression of civil society for the sake of political gain, with a tactic unprecedented in the history of the European Union," said OSF President Patrick Gaspard in a statement.

Opposition and human rights groups have long said that an exit from the OSF would mark a milestone in the direction of authoritarian rule in Hungary and violate EU principles – a government-denied indictment.

The Hungarian government spokesman Zoltan Kovacs declined to comment.

FILE PHOTO: The headquarters of the Open Society Foundations (OSF) of George Soros will be seen on April 20, 2018 in Budapest, Hungary. REUTERS / Bernadett Szabo / Archival photo

Orban has increased its control over the media Allies controlling formerly independent institutions while refusing to accept large numbers of migrants in Hungary have also brought it into conflict with the EU.

Orban and Soros argued about the 2015 European migration crisis. Orban says that Soros wants to undermine Europe's cultural identity, while the billionaire accused him of leading a mafia state.

Prior to the elections, Orban's political campaign condemned Soros and its activities in support of civil society nationwide on billboards.

The Open Society said the campaign called "anti-Semitic images from World War II". The government has repeatedly denied this.

The NGO law is expected to be one of the first laws passed by the new parliament.

It would allow the Minister of the Interior to ban all non-governmental NGOs that constitute a "national security risk". It would also levy a 25 per cent tax on foreign donations to non-governmental organizations that are moving back.

coverage by Marton Dunai, written by Gergely Szakacs and Krisztina Than; Arrangement by Robert Birsel and Andrew Heavens


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