Hungarian-American financier and philanthropist George Soros has denounced a Hungarian government campaign against him as "distortions and lies" designed "to create an outside enemy to distract citizens."
The Open Society Foundations, in a note posted on Soros's personal website, responded to a "national consultation" survey mailed by the government of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán to Hungarian voters in October which alleged that Soros was controlling the European Union's decision-making process with respect to refugees and migrants. The survey asked the voters whether they supported what it called the "Soros Plan" — including the resettlement of "at least a million immigrants from Africa and the Middle East annually on the territory of the European Union"; removal of border fences and opening of borders to immigrants by EU member states; the redistribution of immigrants from Western Europe to Eastern Europe; and a requirement that every EU member state pay 9 million Hungarian forint ($33,772) in mandatory state aid per immigrant.
The survey document also states that, as part of his plan, Soros would "like to see migrants receive lighter sentences for the crimes they commit," "diminish the importance of the language and culture of European countries in order to make the integration of illegal immigrants happen sooner," and "launch political attacks on countries objecting to immigration and impose strict penalties on them."
OSF's rebuttal refutes each of the government's claims and cites past statements by Soros in which he has made clear that "the EU must build common mechanisms for protecting borders, determining asylum claims, and relocating refugees" and that "the EU cannot coerce member states to accept refugees they do not want, or refugees to go where they are not wanted."
Soros's decades-long support for liberal and open-society values in Eastern Europe has put him at odds with Orbán — who received a Soros scholarship to Oxford University when he was a liberal anti-Communist student leader but has since become a right-wing nationalist and taken a hard line against immigration, especially from Muslim nations. Earlier this year, Orbán and his Fidesz party sought to shut down the Soros-funded Central European University in Budapest, cracked down on foreign-funded NGOs in Hungary, and, with elections looming in April, ran a billboard campaign against Soros that — together with his calls to preserve Hungary's "ethnic homogeneity" and endorsement of a World War II Hungarian leader allied with Nazi Germany — resulted in accusations of anti-Semitism.
"With Hungary's healthcare and education systems in distress and corruption rife, the current government has sought to create an outside enemy to distract citizens," the rebuttal on Soros's website states. "The government selected George Soros for this purpose, launching a massive anti-Soros media campaign costing tens of millions of euros in taxpayer money, stoking anti-Muslim sentiment, and employing anti-Semitic tropes reminiscent of the 1930s."