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Soros: I admire the courageous way Hungarians have resisted the deception and corruption of the mafia state Orbán has established

George Soros, Chairman of Soros Fund Management and Chairman of the Open Society Foundations published an opinion piece on The piece, titled "Standing Up For Europe," argues for the "radical reinvention" of the European Union in order to save it from an "existential danger."


Soros, the subject of relentless attacks, scapegoating and conspiracy theories propagated by Hungary's Fidesz government, raised concern that the EU is surrounded by countries which are hostile to its values – "Vladimir Putin's Russia, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's Turkey, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi's Egypt, and the America that Donald Trump would create if he could."
But Soros also warned of internal conflicts which could mean the end of the union if substantial reforms are not undertaken to solve major problems in an EU which has become "dysfunctional." He argues that the financial crisis beginning in 2008 rendered many of the treaties by which the EU is governed "irrelevant," and acknowledged that "the eurozone was transformed into an arrangement whereby creditor countries dictated terms to debtor countries that couldn't meet their obligations."
Such power imbalances resulted in "member states [wanting] to reassert their sovereignty, rather than surrendering more of it," Soros argued, and proposed replacing "a 'multi-speed' Europe with a 'multi-track' Europe that allows member states a wider variety of democratic choices would have a far-reaching beneficial effect."
Such a statement, remarkably congruous with much of the EU-skeptical, nationalist rhetoric recently coming from the Hungarian government under Viktor Orbán, might come as a surprise to the leader who has led a campaign to make a ubiquitous bogeyman out of Soros. A European Union in which member states enjoyed greater autonomy to pursue whatever repressive policies they choose, and impose them by whatever undemocratic means they choose, would be music to Orbán's ears.
But Soros qualified his statement by condemning "the deception and corruption of the mafia state Orbán has established," and praising the "spontaneous, grassroots initiatives" which have emerged in Hungary in "courageous" opposition and resistance to Orbán and Fidesz.
"The resistance in Hungary must be as surprising to Orbán as it is to me," Soros wrote. "Orbán has sought to frame his policies as a personal conflict with me, making me the target of his government's unrelenting propaganda campaign. He casts himself as the defender of Hungarian sovereignty and me as a currency speculator who uses his money to flood Europe with illegal immigrants as part of some vague but nefarious plot.
"But the truth is that I am the proud founder of Central European University, which, after 26 years, has come to rank among the world's top 50 universities in many of the social sciences. By endowing CEU, I have enabled it to defend its academic freedom from outside interference, whether by the Hungarian government or anyone else (including its founder).
" is not enough to rely on the rule of law to defend open societies; you must also stand up for what you believe. The CEU and my foundations' grantees are doing so. Their fate is in the balance. But I am confident that their determined defense of academic freedom and freedom of association will eventually set in motion Europe's slow-moving wheels of justice."

Soros hit back Thursday against Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban over the leader's attempts to shut down a Budapest university which Soros founded after the fall of communism. In a speech in Brussels, the Hungarian-American billionaire accused Orban of building a "mafia state" in Hungary. In doing so, he reached for a term that has gained currency among Orban's critics, who see the prime minister as leading an increasingly authoritarian and corrupt political system in which he and those in his inner circle are growing richer, often with European Union funds.
Soros praised the Hungarians who have staged large street demonstrations in past months in defense of the Central European University, a graduate school which Soros founded in 1991 in order to strengthen rule of law across the region. Orban's Fidesz party passed new legislation in April that threatens its continued existence in Budapest.
"I am full of admiration for the courageous way the Hungarian people have resisted the deception and corruption of the mafia state the Orban regime has established," Soros told policymakers and economic leaders in a speech at the Brussels Economic Forum.
Hungarian government spokesman Zoltan Kovacs said Soros' words reveal he "has his own political agenda."
"Who exactly is George Soros and what does he have to do with Europe and its fate? Why should what he says carry any weight? The democratically elected representatives of the member states will decide," Kovacs said.
Soros, an 86-year-old Holocaust survivor from Hungary, has emerged as one of the global figures most hated by populists and nationalists. They denounce his support for liberal causes, including LGBT, women's and refugee rights, and fault his financial speculation as a cause of the pain felt by many in the aftermath of the financial crisis.
Soros' admirers praise him for the many good causes he has supported and feel is being used as a scapegoat by authoritarian politicians, noting troubling parallels between the language used against him and anti-Semitic conspiracy theories of the past.
In late April, Orban described Soros to the European Parliament as a "financial speculator ... who is now attacking Hungary."
Soros decried how Orban "has made me the target of his unrelenting propaganda campaign."
"He cast himself in the role of the defender of Hungarian sovereignty and me as a currency speculator who used his money to exert control over Hungary in order to profit from it," Soros told his Brussels audience.
"This is the opposite of who I am. I am the proud founder of the Central European University that has, after 26 years, come to rank among the 50 best universities in the world in many of the social sciences."

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said Friday that investor George Soros issued a "declaration of war" when he called his home country a "mafia state."
Orban is facing legal action from the European Union after imposing education reforms that could force Soros' Central European University to close. Orban accused Soros of enforcing his agenda by paying "agent-like networks" of non-governmental organizations.

Last Updated on Thursday, 08 June 2017 18:45

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