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Soros foundation to shut its office in 'repressive' Hungary

Soros foundation to shut its office in 'repressive' Hungary

The step raises the stakes in Prime Minister Viktor Orban's standoff with the European Union as he seeks to complete a break with liberal democracy after winning a third consecutive term in elections last month. "The fact that OSF feel the need to leave says a lot about where things are going now with a government that is ruthless when it comes to civil society and has made its intentions very clear", said Gauri van Gulik, Amnesty International's Europe director, adding her organisation is considering a similar move if the proposed laws are passed.

The bill already allows the interior minister to ban NGOs active in the immigration field that he deems to pose a "national security risk", and it imposes a 25 percent tax on foreign donations to NGOs that back migration.

Rights groups in Hungary and overseas have denounced the proposals as a way of cracking down on groups critical of the government.

After Orban and his Fidesz Party won a landslide in parliamentary elections on April 8, the attacks on Soros and the OSF have increased.

Open Society said it would continue to support the work of civil society groups in Hungary on issues such as human rights, arts and culture, media freedom, transparency, and education and health care.

The group said it was pulling out a day after the right-wing government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban announced it would tighten restrictions on nongovernmental organizations under a law dubbed the "Stop Soros" bill.

The prime minister views Soros as an intruder into the country's domestic politics, which are more and more being painted by Europe's growing 2015 migrant crisis.

A billboard reads'Soros wants to transplant millions from Africa and the Middle East. REUTERS  Bernadett Szabo
A government billboard is seen in Budapest Thomson Reuters

A Hungarian government billboard featuring George Soros, with the words translated to "Don't let George Soros have the last laugh" is seen at a transit stop in Budapest on July 6, 2017.

George Soros, founder and chairman of the Open Society Foundation, waits for the start of a meeting at European Union headquarters in Brussels on April 27, 2017.

Some Hungarian Jews, in addition to Soros himself, find the campaign anti-Semitic.

Earlier against Soros and his Foundation in Hungary was launched large-scale campaign.

Another term for Orban could also have implications for Soros's Central European University, a graduate school which is considered by the government a foreign institution.

Orban is leveraging his recent massive electoral victory to restrict the political influence of NGOs, many of which received millions from Soros, a Hungarian who escaped the country before Nazis invaded.

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