(Reuters) When his government lost a lawsuit in the European Court of Human Rights last week over its detention and expulsion of two migrants from Bangladesh, Hungary’s rightwing prime minister blamed the usual suspect: a billionaire in New York.
“It is a collusion of human traffickers, Brussels bureaucrats and the organisations that work in Hungary financed by foreign money,” Viktor Orban told public radio on Friday.
“Let’s call a spade a spade: George Soros finances them.”
Across former Communist states of east and central Europe, leaders with a hardline bent have turned their wrath in recent months against Soros, a Hungarian-American financier who funds liberal charities and non-governmental organisations worldwide through his Open Society Foundations (OSF).
The campaign against Soros in countries formerly dominated by Moscow appears to follow a template set by Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose own crackdown on foreign-funded charities drove Soros’s foundation out of Russia two years ago.
And now, with President Donald Trump in the White House, anti-Soros campaigners in Eastern Europe say they have also drawn inspiration from the United States, particularly from rightwing U.S. media like the website Breitbart, which has long vilified Soros as a liberal hate figure.
Breitbart’s former chairman Steve Bannon now serves as a senior White House adviser to Trump.
“Our inspiration comes from the United States, from the American conservative organisations, media and congressmen with the same views, especially the new administration of President Trump,” said Cvetlin Cilimanov, the editor of the main state news agency in Macedonia, who co-founded a group called Operation Stop Soros in January.