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George Soros to keep funding NGOs in Hungary despite government hostility

Business magnate George Soros arrives to speak at the Open Russia Club in London, Britain June 20, 2016. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor/File Photo

BUDAPEST (Reuters) – Billionaire George Soros’ Open Society Foundations will keep working with and financing NGOs in Hungary despite the Hungarian government saying that any civil society group they should be “swept out”, the head of the Foundations said on Wednesday.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s Fidesz party’s vice chairman Szilard Nemeth told a news conference on Tuesday that “these organizations must be pushed back with all available tools”.

Orban has been criticized at home and abroad for his government’s increasing control over the media, and a crackdown on NGOs, which started in 2014.

“The Open Society Foundations will continue to work in Hungary despite government opposition to our mission of fairer, accountable societies,” Christopher Stone, President of the Open Society Foundations, said in a statement emailed to Reuters.

“In Hungary and around the world we are more focused than ever on working with local groups to strengthen democratic practice, rights and justice.”

The Open Society Foundations have been active in Hungary for the past three decades. Soros has financed foreign scholarships for several Fidesz politicians, including Orban at the time when communism collapsed in Hungary.

Now the Open Society Foundations fund over 60 Hungarian NGOs promoting independent journalism, tackling corruption, and combating discrimination.

Orban has said civil society groups receive foreign money to “organize refugee streams and boost migration”.

(Reporting by Krisztina Than; Editing by Louise Ireland)

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