Anyone who thinks that Viktor Orbán’s charge that George Soros is responsible for the refugee crisis is too bizarre to be believable should think again. The propaganda is working. Nyugat.hu, an internet site serving western Transdanubia, reports regularly on Körmend, the town where a camp for about 300 refugees was set up. Although there have been no incidents resulting from the presence of the refugees, parties and civic groups have organized several town meetings. First, Jobbik and a local political organization invited a Hungarian Reformed minister to speak about Hungarians’ Lebensraum (élettér), whose connotation in Hungarian is no better than it is in German or in English. The next day Fidesz held a meeting where one of attendees confidently announced that “if the mercenaries of Gyurkó Soros were annihilated, then Hungary would have no such problems.” Orbán’s message had obviously sunk in.
While Viktor Orbán is busy orchestrating an attack on Soros, the Clintons, the Democratic Party, and the Obama administration, the Hungarian opposition is countering, pointing out how beholden Fidesz and Viktor Orbán in particular are to George Soros. The Demokratikus Koalíció website states that “Orbán owes his political career to George Soros.” This is an exaggeration, but it is true that Fidesz, before it became a party, received generous and sustained financial support from Soros’s Open Society Foundation.
Everybody I talked to who knew Orbán and the other young activists of Bibó College had a very favorable impression of them. Soros was no exception. It was Miklós Vásárhelyi, press secretary of Imre Nagy during his short-lived tenure as prime minister of Hungary, who introduced the young activists to George Soros. Vásárhelyi became a close friend and representative of Soros. In the 1990s he was the chairman of the Open Society Foundation in Hungary. During these early years Fidesz received 4.7 million forints, which would be worth roughly 200 million forints today. I remember vividly that the foundation supplied copy machines to several burgeoning political groups, which I thought was absolutely brilliant. Prior to that gift, producing the necessarily very short-run samizdat material was a slow, cumbersome process. Soros also funded scholarships for Viktor Orbán, József Szájer, László Kövér, and Tamás Deutsch to study at British universities. Orbán received a monthly stipend of 10,000 Ft from a Soros-funded organization, which allowed him to devote himself to politics.
Although after Fidesz became a party it no longer received financial help from the Open Society, the relationship between the party leaders and Soros remained friendly. They parted ways, however, when in 1993 and 1994 Viktor Orbán led his party to the conservative camp. According to an Origo article published in 2010, after Orbán won the election in 1998 Soros hoped for a while that the young new prime minister would take the country in the “right” direction. But after about a year and a half into Orbán’s term, relations between Soros and the prime minister deteriorated. It is hard to know who was responsible for that turn of events, but I suspect it was more Orbán’s decision than Soros’s. According to Anna Belia, who was program director of the Open Society Foundation in Hungary at the time, the foundation tried several times to initiate meetings with the prime minister, but their requests were left unanswered. The problem was that Soros’s foundation “supported movements and publications that were not to Viktor Orbán’s liking.”
From 2000 on, Soros began to curtail his involvement in Hungary, claiming that soon enough Hungary would be a part of the European Union and his philanthropy would not be needed. And indeed, by 2008 the sole remaining program of the Soros foundation was the Roma Education Fund.
Two years later, however, Soros was back. He offered one million dollars toward the cleanup efforts of the red sludge environmental disaster. At the same time he gave millions for Hungary’s Roma program, the Decade of Roma Inclusion, in addition to his Roma Education Fund, through which he partially funded the Hódmezővásárhely integration program, which was considered to be a great success of János Lázár, mayor of the city. At that point Soros was planning to expand the program and was hoping that within five years the number of children taking part in the program would be raised to 30,000. I must admit that I don’t know much about the current situation, although I know that the foundation’s scholarship program is a real success in Hungary. As for the integration project, I doubt that Soros is satisfied with the attitude of Zoltán Balog, who is a strong proponent of “loving segregation.” No rational arguments against such a solution can change his mind.
Ildikó Csuhaj, Népszabadság’s sleuth when it comes to information being leaked from Fidesz, reported today that in Fidesz circles the number of Soros’s “domestic agents” is growing. By now, even former SZDSZ politicians and Ronald S. Lauder are being accused of serving Soros’s agenda. Some people in government circles are convinced that the large American investment banks conspired with Soros to launch a concerted financial attack against Hungary. Apparently their “source” is a novel by Tamás Frei, A bankár. Of course, it is fiction but, according to the book by György Matolcsy’s secretary, after reading it, even the head of the Hungarian National Bank saw the light. Matolcsy is convinced that this novel describes a real life situation. In government circles there is also the strong belief that Soros is responsible for influencing the U.S. State Department through his accusations that “the Hungarian right has Fascist attributes.”
Finally, Jane Mayer has a long article in The New Yorker about a clumsy effort “to perpetrate an elaborate sting on Soros.”