Hungary’s Soros-Backed University Is Allowed to Stay

The government proposed a law last year that appeared to have been written specifically with the intent of shutting the school down, and its passage was met with criticism from universities around the world, the United States and the executive arm of the European Union.

Hungary joined the European Union in 2004, but Mr. Orban’s rise as an autocrat and a threat to liberal democracy as established in the bloc has been accompanied by increasingly strident views toward migrants ever since hundreds of thousands passed through the country on their way to Northern Europe in 2015.

The Hungarian government has repeatedly accused Mr. Soros — who has spent millions backing organizations that promote liberal democracy and open borders in Europe — of plotting to destabilize the continent by allowing millions of migrants to settle in Europe. (Mr. Soros issued a rebuttal to the government’s claims.)

Mr. Soros began his work in Hungary, the country where he was born, in the 1980s as it prepared for the fall of the Iron Curtain, and he was among the recipients of scholarships from foundations sponsored by the financier during the transition to democracy.

In 1991, he founded Central European University and gave it a generous endowment, which stood at 500 million euros, or about $610 million, last year, creating one of the most modern and sought-after centers for the social sciences in the country and Eastern Europe.

The threat to close it was part of relentless government campaign to associate Mr. Soros with the migration crisis and to persuade Hungarians that he was educating and financing an opposition to Mr. Orban’s increasingly autocratic government.

As Hungary prepares for elections in April that are widely expected to hand Mr. Orban four more years as prime minister, the campaign has grown more intense. Visitors to Hungary this winter saw a country in which Mr. Soros was depicted as a public enemy.

Large billboards were a frequent presence throughout the country, and advertisements on radio, television and the internet all had the same message: Mr. Soros is organizing mass migration to Hungary and the rest of Europe.

Analysts say the reprieve for the university does not mean an end to the intimidation against nongovernmental organizations that support democracy, transparency and support for migrants.

“The political smear campaign, the hate-incitement and the mass of lies is causing untold damage,” Gábor Horn, chairman of the board of the Republikon Foundation, an independent political research organization, said in a statement in December. “It will take 30-40 years before we get over this,” he said.

Last month, the government proposed the Stop Soros Bill, which would allow a ban on organizations that are judged to support migration and tax financing they receive from organizations abroad.

“The government wants to arbitrarily label, malign and separate from society certain N.G.O.s it dislikes” and, eventually, to force them to cease their operations, the Hungarian Helsinki Committee, which provides legal assistance to asylum seekers among others, said in a statement.

Continue reading the main story https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/28/world/europe/ceu-hungary-soros.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

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Hungary’s Soros-Backed University Is Allowed to Stay

The government proposed a law last year that appeared to have been written specifically with the intent of shutting the school down, and its passage was met with criticism from universities around the world, the United States and the executive arm of the European Union.

Hungary joined the European Union in 2004, but Mr. Orban’s rise as an autocrat and a threat to liberal democracy as established in the bloc has been accompanied by increasingly strident views toward migrants ever since hundreds of thousands passed through the country on their way to Northern Europe in 2015.

The Hungarian government has repeatedly accused Mr. Soros — who has spent millions backing organizations that promote liberal democracy and open borders in Europe — of plotting to destabilize the continent by allowing millions of migrants to settle in Europe. (Mr. Soros issued a rebuttal to the government’s claims.)

Mr. Soros began his work in Hungary, the country where he was born, in the 1980s as it prepared for the fall of the Iron Curtain, and he was among the recipients of scholarships from foundations sponsored by the financier during the transition to democracy.

In 1991, he founded Central European University and gave it a generous endowment, which stood at 500 million euros, or about $610 million, last year, creating one of the most modern and sought-after centers for the social sciences in the country and Eastern Europe.

The threat to close it was part of relentless government campaign to associate Mr. Soros with the migration crisis and to persuade Hungarians that he was educating and financing an opposition to Mr. Orban’s increasingly autocratic government.

As Hungary prepares for elections in April that are widely expected to hand Mr. Orban four more years as prime minister, the campaign has grown more intense. Visitors to Hungary this winter saw a country in which Mr. Soros was depicted as a public enemy.

Large billboards were a frequent presence throughout the country, and advertisements on radio, television and the internet all had the same message: Mr. Soros is organizing mass migration to Hungary and the rest of Europe.

Analysts say the reprieve for the university does not mean an end to the intimidation against nongovernmental organizations that support democracy, transparency and support for migrants.

“The political smear campaign, the hate-incitement and the mass of lies is causing untold damage,” Gábor Horn, chairman of the board of the Republikon Foundation, an independent political research organization, said in a statement in December. “It will take 30-40 years before we get over this,” he said.

Last month, the government proposed the Stop Soros Bill, which would allow a ban on organizations that are judged to support migration and tax financing they receive from organizations abroad.

“The government wants to arbitrarily label, malign and separate from society certain N.G.O.s it dislikes” and, eventually, to force them to cease their operations, the Hungarian Helsinki Committee, which provides legal assistance to asylum seekers among others, said in a statement.

Continue reading the main story https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/28/world/europe/ceu-hungary-soros.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

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