Brussels begins legal action against Hungary
The European Commission yesterday (Thursday) sent a formal letter of notice to Hungary, the first step of an infringement procedure, over the nationalist government’s anti-migrant Stop Soros law.
Named after Jewish Hungarian-American billionaire and democracy campaigner George Soros, it threatens NGOs and human rights advocates helping migrants with up to a year in prison. It became legislation in June along with a set of constitutional amendments.
Populist Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who has objected to the EU’s calls for greater tolerance, is visiting political allies in Israel, where he has been praised by the right-wing government, but also faced protests.
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed Orban as a “true friend of Israel” at the start of the controversial two-day visit after Orbán‘s praise of Nazi collaborators.
Netanyahu was called to cancel the trip after Orban last year drew criticism for praising Miklós Horthy, Hungary’s Second World War ruler, who introduced anti-Semitic laws and collaborated with the occupiers.
Hungary in December abstained when the UN General Assembly voted overwhelmingly to reject the US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
The nation also joined the Czech Republic and Romania in blocking an EU statement criticising the US decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv.
The Open Society Foundation, established by Soros, says it has spent over US$400 million in Hungary since 1984 backing “independent journalism, fighting corruption, supporting civic participation, and combating discrimination”.
Orban’s Fidesz party has attacked Soros, waging a prolonged campaign with billboards and other adverting, which Soros condemned as anti-Semitic.
The posters (pictured) feature a grinning Soros with the caption: “Don’t let Soros have the last laugh.”
In May the foundation announced it was closing its operations in Hungary and relocating to Germany in response to Orban’s “repressive” policies.
The letter from the EU’s executive branch letter is the first stage of a process which could lead to Hungary being told to change the law.
Budapest has also been referred to the European Court of Justice for alleged failings to comply with EU asylum rules and is facing censure for legislation criminalising the support for asylum-seekers by civic groups.
The commission said it was taking legal action as the last stage of a procedure that began in December 2015 because “the majority of the concerns raised have still not been addressed”.
Advertising attacking George Soros in his native Hungary. Picture credit: YouTube