Hungarian-born George Soros says Budapest's campaign against him is a ruse to distract from poor governance and corruption in his homeland
OLIVIER HOSLET, POOL/AFP
Budapest - 20 Nov 2017: George Soros spoke out Monday for the first time about Hungary's "survey" on the US financier and philanthropist's views and alleged intentions on immigration, accusing Budapest of "distortions and outright lies".
Hungarian-born Soros, 87, said Prime Minister Viktor Orban's government has sought to portray him as "an outside enemy to distract citizens" from "health care and education systems in distress" and "rife" corruption.
"The government selected George Soros for this purpose, launching a massive anti-Soros media campaign costing tens of millions of euros in taxpayer money, stoking anti-Muslim sentiment, and employing anti-Semitic tropes reminiscent of the 1930s," a statement on his website said.
In a seven-point "national consultation" survey and letter from the fiercely anti-immigration Orban sent by mail to households nationwide from October 9, the government says it is canvassing opinion on what it calls the "Soros Plan".
This refers to a 2015 opinion piece, written as hundreds of thousands of migrants were streaming into Europe through the Balkans, in which Soros said the European Union should take in at least a million migrants annually.
The Hungarian government survey says Soros is encouraging and even orchestrating Europe's ongoing migration crisis as well as influencing European Union policy.
Orban, who is running for re-election next year, says the "poison" of Muslim immigration poses a security risk and threatens Europe's Christian culture and identity.
Soros, who has become a bete noire for nationalists and conspiracy theorists in Europe and America, said each of the statements "contain distortions and outright lies that deliberately mislead Hungarians about (his) views on migrants and refugees".
The survey, which the government calls a "democratic exercise", has been accompanied by a nationwide poster and media blitz that prominently features the Jewish emigre financier's laughing face, an image that Hungary's leading Jewish organisation has said could stoke anti-Semitism.
Soros said the national consultation is part of an "ongoing propaganda effort" since 2015 that included a "Stop Brussels" consultation earlier this year and a referendum that vilified migrants and refugees in 2016.
The right-wing Orban has been stepping up his attacks on Soros this year calling him a "public enemy" for his perceived "liberal agenda" and alleged pro-immigration stance.
Parliament, dominated by Orban's ruling Fidesz party, has approved a law widely seen as targeting non-governmental organisations supported by Soros, and another that has threatened with closure a Budapest university he founded after the fall of communism.