While journalists in Hungary are busily trying to find out what led to Botka’s resignation and analysts are coming up with all sorts of theories about the collapse of the Hungarian Socialist Party, I am returning to the Soros Plan. Yesterday and today a vigorous discussion took place on Hungarian Spectrum about the way in which the Orbán government is using and misusing George Soros’s writings and interviews for its own political purposes.
Professor Joseph Forgas, while finding the national consultation “a dishonest, misleading and outrageous party political propaganda campaign,” considers “George Soros’s opinion pieces … unfortunate and ill-judged.” In his opinion, Soros as a private citizen is entitled to air his views, but “his specific advice to the EU about what it should do about the migration crisis was rather ill considered.” In liberal circles “there is a tendency to adopt a stance of moral posturing and high-handed prescriptions that ignore the pragmatic and political realities of the situation.” Soros, he believes, is no exception.
There may be a great deal of truth in that criticism, and perhaps it was ill-advised of Soros to offer his thoughts on the subject. But as we all know, George Soros likes to comment on world affairs, and he certainly has every right to do so. All of us who live in democratic societies can do the same. The difference is that when George Soros offers his thoughts, newspapers all over the world will discuss the pros and cons of his message. For instance, Soros’s opinions on the state of the economy during the financial crisis made headlines for weeks. This is who he is. A kind of missionary, especially when it comes to his cherished concept of the “Open Society.”
Although people can criticize his ideas and argue for or against them, what the Orbán government did was to misconstrue and distort his ideas and falsify his texts. I assume readers noted that all the Soros quotations came from his first essay, “Rebuilding the Asylum System,” which appeared in 2015. There was not a word about or from the second essay, in which he espoused some ideas that were very close to those Orbán suggested at the time.
Here are some thoughts, point by point, on the texts.
According to Statement 1, “George Soros wants to persuade Brussels to resettle at least one million immigrants from Africa and the Middle East onto the territory of the European Union, including Hungary.” This number does appear in the 2015 essay, but Soros didn’t want to persuade or force the EU to take that many immigrants. He simply expected that many to arrive, and he turned out to be correct. A year later, however, when he was discussing regulated immigration, he talked about 300,000 immigrants per year as a number that could still be handled.
According to Statement 2, “George Soros, together with the officials in Brussels, also wants to achieve the dismantlement of the fences and the opening of borders to the migrants.” In the Infobox the Orbán government claims that “as the billionaire put it, ‘the goal of our plan is the protection of the refugees and national borders are barriers’.” Unfortunately, since I am not a “professional service subscriber” to Bloomberg News, I was unable to check in what context this sentence appeared in the article. Yes, Soros does believe that Europe needs the infusion of immigrants to offset the poor demographics of the continent, but it is not true that he wants to weaken border defenses. In fact, the opposite is true. As for taking down Orbán’s fence, this is most likely the figment of the imagination of the compiler of the questionnaire.
According to Statement 3, “One part of the Soros Plan is the compulsory distribution by Brussels of immigrants who conglomerated in Western Europe, especially in respect to the East European countries. Hungary would have to take part in this.” In the Infobox, the questionnaire quotes a sentence from an article written by Soros in July 2015, warning that if the distribution of immigrants does not “become permanent and mandatory features of a common EU asylum system, it will fall apart.” But a month later, in an article titled “Rebuilding the Asylum System,” he says the following: “It is equally important to allow both states and asylum-seekers to express their preferences, using the least possible coercion. Placing refugees where they want to go – and where they are wanted – is a sine qua non of success.” It is easy to cherry pick quotations from Soros over time that can show him in an unfavorable light from the perspective of the xenophobic Hungarian population.
Statement 4 claims that “according to the Soros Plan, Brussels should force all EU Member States, including Hungary, to pay each immigrant HUF 9 million in welfare payments.” This is an outright lie. In fact, Soros in the same article I just quoted in connection with Question 3 says exactly the opposite. “Adequate financing is critical. The EU should provide €15,000 ($16,800) per asylum-seeker for each of the first two years to help cover housing, health care, and education costs—and to make accepting refugees more appealing to member states.” This cannot be clearer. It would be Hungary that would receive this subsidy for every refugee it takes. The information provided in the Infobox about raising taxes on gasoline and tourism is correct, but Soros never said a thing about VAT.
According to Statement 5, “Another goal of George Soros is to make sure that migrants receive milder sentences for crimes they commit.” There is a reference in the Infobox to Amnesty International, which “repeatedly demanded the release of Ahmed H.” You may recall that Ahmed H. received a ten-year jail sentence for throwing a couple of rocks toward the Hungarian police, which likely didn’t do any harm to anyone. As is clear from the statement of the organization, Amnesty International never demanded the release of Ahmed H. but simply argued for a review of the sentence. The organization also never demanded damages from the Hungarian government. TASZ, Hungary’s Civil Liberties Union, another Soros-funded organization, handled his defense. An able Hungarian lawyer argued his appeal, which resulted in the annulment of the lower court’s decision. Ahmed H. is still in jail awaiting trial.
According to Statement 6, “The aim of the Soros Plan is to de-emphasize the languages and cultures of the European countries in order to achieve faster integration of the illegal immigrants.” This sentence simply doesn’t make sense. Why would the weakening of native languages and culture make the integration of newcomers easier? Integration simply means admitting people of different cultural or ethnic backgrounds to equal membership in a society. If we weakened the existing culture, we would also weaken our ability to integrate the newly arrived individuals, which includes learning and using the majority language. Although the questionnaire doesn’t contain the accusation that George Soros actually wants to turn European countries into Islamic enclaves, Fidesz politicians often talk about Soros’s strange penchant for the Islamization of Europe. When asked why it would be in the interest of Soros to purposely change the religious and cultural makeup of the European Union, the answer always is that “this is good business” for him. It makes not the slightest sense, but such things never bother Fidesz spokesmen.
According to Statement 7, “It is also part of the Soros Plan to initiate political attacks against those countries that oppose immigration and to severely punish them.” This statement is closely connected to Statement 6 and makes about the same amount of sense. What follows in the Infobox is unadulterated government propaganda. For example, “Today, George Soros is unable to bring millions of immigrants to Europe because there are governments that raise their voices against it,” or “when the Hungarian government complies with the Schengen Agreement, when it protects the borders and builds a fence, it hampers the implementation of the Soros Plan.” These political contrivances are so primitive as to be beneath contempt.