In Brief

Hungary pushes ‘Stop Soros’ law to thwart billionaire

The billionaire and pro-migration campaigner will fall foul of a new bill designed to penalise pro-immigration groups

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s ultra-conservative party has set up new legislation to block immigration and undermine George Soros, the American-Hungarian billionaire whose philanthropy supports open borders in eastern Europe.

Orban’s cabinet refer to legislation introduced this week as the “Stop Soros” bill, Bloomberg says. The proposals are even tougher than the original plans unveiled in January.

The proposed law would allow the interior minister to ban non-governmental organisations that pose a “national security risk” by supporting migration, Reuters reports, and impose a 25% tax on their foreign donations. NGOs or advocacy groups who recruit volunteers or publish information booklets would need government permission or risk being fined or dissolved entirely.

Soros’s Open Society Foundations said last month that the legislation was designed to “undermine democracy by attempting to ‘criminalise’ civil society and muzzle independent voices.”

Budapest’s new bill is as much about personalities as politics, however. The prime minister and the 87-year-old Hungarian-born billionaire have been feuding since the 2015 migrant crisis, with Soros highly critical of Hungary’s treatment of refugees, The Guardian reports.

Their dispute has intensified over the last few months. Orban has accused the billionaire of ruining the lives of tens of millions of people with his currency speculation. Soros hit back in Brussels last month, calling the Hungarian government a “mafia state”. The legislation is seen by commentators as the latest salvo in an increasingly personal fight.

Orban is unlikely to back down, however. 

Both Hungary and Poland have drifted toward authoritarian governments over the past year, leading to even more clashes between Orban and EU leaders eager to uphold democracy and the rule of law. But Hungary’s voters appear keen to support the anti-immigration policy. Polls show Orban’s Fidesz party is set to win a third consecutive term in the elections this April.

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