Hungary Continues NGO Crackdown, Aims to 'Sweep Out' Soros-funded Groups

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U.S. billionaire investor George Soros at an Institute of International Finance conference in Vienna June 10, 2010.Credit: Reuters

Any civil society group with funding from billionaire George Soros should be "swept out" of Hungary, a vice chairman of the ruling Fidesz party said on Tuesday.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has been criticized at home and abroad for his crackdown on NGOs, which started in 2014, involved dozens of organisations, and lasted for more than a year. They uncovered no wrongdoing.

Orban has said civil society groups receive foreign money to "organise refugee streams and boost migration".

Fidesz vice chairman Szilard Nemeth told a news conference, according to HirTV's website, that Soros was "pushing global big capital and a related political correctness into Hungary" and NGOs he funded were meddling in politics.

"These organisations must be pushed back with all available tools, and I think they must be swept out, and now I believe the international conditions are right for this with the election of the new president (in the U.S.)," Nemeth said, according to a video posted on HirTV's website.

No one at Soros Fund Management was immediately available for comment.

Government spokesman Zoltan Kovacs said in reply to Reuters emailed questions that as a Fidesz lawmaker and vice chairman, Nemeth represented its views and that the government's stance had been set out in an interview with Orban on website

Orban told in December that Soros would be "squeezed out" of every European country and that NGOs would be scrutinised to find out what interests they represented.

"The following year will be about the squeezing out of Soros and the powers that symbolise him," Orban was quoted as saying.

According to a schedule of planned legislation on the parliamentary website, lawmakers are set to vote on extending mandatory declarations of assets to executives of NGOs.

"We don't know exactly what the government is planning against civil organisations but we are not scared by the latest comments," rights advocacy group TASZ, one of the NGOs which is partly funded by Soros, posted on its Facebook page.