giovedì 4 maggio 2017

Orban versus Soros. Braccio di ferro. – Bloomberg

Giuseppe Sandro Mela.


Rivolta di Ungheria 1956 002

«Central European University is a graduate-level “crossroads” university where faculty and students from more than 100 countries come to engage in interdisciplinary education, pursue advanced scholarship, and address some of society’s most vexing problems. 

It is accredited in both the United States and Hungary, and offers English-language Master’s and doctoral programs in the social sciences, the humanities, law, management and public policy. Located in the heart of Central Europe — Budapest, Hungary — CEU has developed a distinct academic and intellectual focus, combining the comparative study of the region’s historical, cultural, and social diversity with a global perspective on good governance, sustainable development and social transformation. 

Founded in 1991 at a time when revolutionary changes were throwing off the rigid orthodoxies imposed on Central and Eastern Europe, CEU is based on the premise that human fallibility can be counterbalanced by the critical discussion of ideas and that this critical spirit can be sustained best in societies where citizens have the freedom to scrutinize competing theories and openly evaluate and change government policies.

With approximately 1,400 students and 370 faculty members from more than 130 countries, CEU is one of the most densely international universities in the world. Its rare mix of nationalities, ethnicities, and cultures creates an ideal environment for examining such “open society” subjects as emerging democracies, transitional economies, media freedom, nationalism, human rights, and the rule of law. It also brings multifaceted perspective to all aspects of community life. 

CEU is known for excellence in teaching and research—with purpose. At the core of its mission lies a set of principles: the pursuit of truth wherever it leads, respect for the diversity of cultures and peoples, and commitment to resolve differences through debate not denial.» [Central European University. About Ceu]


«CEU is a new model for international education, a center for study of contemporary economic, social and political challenges, and a source of support for building open and democratic societies that respect human rights and human dignity.» [Central European University. Our Mission]


«The CEU Open Society Prize is awarded annually to an outstanding individual or organization whose achievements have contributed substantially to the creation of an open society. The prize was first awarded in 1994, to philosopher Sir Karl Popper, whose book The Open Society and Its Enemies (1945) presented a philosophy of tolerance, openness and democratic values.» [Central European University. Open Society Prize]

Chiariamo immediatamente come l’ideologia liberal propugnata dalla Ceu sia l’esatto contrario di quanto teorizzato da Karl Popper.

* * * * * * *

Chi sia e come agisca Mr. Soros, il fondatore della Central European University, è già stato ampiamente trattato.

Soros George. Uno stato negli stati. Ecco i suoi principali voivodati.

Iniziata la rivolta mondiale contro il regime liberal di Mr Soros.


Questo è il fatto, che lasciamo descrivere alla penna del The New York Times.

«Hungary’s Parliament approved legislation on Tuesday that appeared to be written to force the closing of a university founded by the financier George Soros, the latest step in what observers see as a crackdown on free expression and liberal values.

New amendments to an existing higher education law — which received the support of 123 lawmakers, with 38 voting against and another 38 abstaining — ostensibly affect about two dozen universities, but they were widely believed to be aimed specifically at Central European University, based in Budapest.

The university, known as C.E.U., has been operating in Hungary partly as an American institution and relatively free of Hungarian oversight. But the amended law contains a provision that would most likely restrict the independence of universities that offer diplomas from countries where they do not have a campus or offer courses — a provision that would affect only Central European University.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s government, which has been accused of failing to uphold democratic values, has mounted vociferous attacks on nongovernmental organizations, many of them reliant on financing from Mr. Soros and critical of the administration.

In his weekly interview on state radio on Friday, Mr. Orban said that Central European University’s status, which allowed it to operate in Hungary while issuing American degrees, gave it an unfair advantage over Hungarian counterparts.

He called the way the university operated a “fraud,” adding that “in Hungary, one cannot be above the law — even if you’re a billionaire,” a clear reference to Mr. Soros.

The amendment was fast-tracked through Parliament on Tuesday. It is set to become law after the country’s president signs it, which is usually a formality.»

* * * * * * *

Nel concetto usualmente corrente di democrazia, un Parlamento liberamente eletto dal popolo sovrano dovrebbe essere legalmente in grado di legiferare secondo convenienza.

Il provvedimento in oggetto inerisce oltre una dozzina di università ungheresi, tra le quali anche la Ceu.

Strana università la Ceu. Si presenta come propagazione di una università americana che non ha studenti. Un po’ difficile definirla come “università“. Altra stranezza è l’elenco delle pubblicazioni. La quasi totalità di quelle riportate dal sito ufficiale della Ceu sono state fatte su giornali elettronici, senza peer review.

Ma il problema sollevato da Mr Orban nei confronti di Mr Soros è politico e sociale.

«Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s government, which has been accused of failing to uphold democratic values, has mounted vociferous attacks on nongovernmental organizations, many of them reliant on financing from Mr. Soros and critical of the administration».

Il problema però non consiste nel fatto che le ong di Mr Soros siano critiche verso il Presidente Orban: in Parlamento è presenta un’opposizione agguerrita e molto attiva. Non perde occasione per far le bucce a Mr Orban.

Ma questa opposizione non intende sovvertire la Weltanschauung ungherese: è democratica.

Cosa che proprio non può essere detta delle ong di Mr Soros: sono liberals e vogliono imporre tale ideologia.

Formano uno stato nello stato, e questo non è tollerabile.

Sono quattro gatti e pretendono di rappresentare tutto il popolo. Hanno perso le ultime elezioni in modo clamoroso.

Adesso ci si sono messi di mezzo Mr Juncker e Mr Tusk. L’Unione Europea si indigna con Mr Orban.

Staremo a vedere, ma sembrerebbe poter essere possibile che alla fine Mr Soros ed i suoi fedeli scudieri siano sconfitti.

→ Bloomberg. 2017-04-29. Orban Scolded by EU Over Law Targeting Soros’s University

– Hungarian leader is summoned to EU party meeting in Brussels

– Europe’s Christian Democrats tell Hungary to heed EU inquiry


Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban was reprimanded by his political group in the European Union as western countries signaled they are more willing to get tough on a populist leader who has been a persistent critic of the bloc.

The European People’s Party, a Christian Democratic alliance that includes Orban’s governing Fidesz party, told Hungary to “take all necessary steps” to comply with an EU probe into a new education law in the country that restricts foreign-funded colleges. The legislation threatens to shutter Budapest-based Central European University, which billionaire financier George Soros founded in 1991 to train post-communist democratic leaders in eastern Europe.

“We will not accept that any basic freedoms are restricted or that the rule of law is disregarded,” Joseph Daul, president of the EPP, said in an emailed statement on Saturday after summoning Orban to an early morning meeting in Brussels. “This includes academic freedom and the autonomy of universities. The EPP wants the CEU to remain open.”

The screws are slowing turning on Hungary as Orban champions his “illiberal state.” Mainstream pro-EU parties have been emboldened by expectations of defeat in France for far-right candidate Marine Le Pen, by a victory for moderate politics in the Dutch election and by a desire for unity in the front against the centrifugal forces sparked by Britain’s Brexit vote.

The European Commission opened the investigation into the Hungarian education law onApril 26. Frans Timmermans, its principal vice president, vowed to ensure it produces results. “We’re very firm on this,” Timmermans said on Saturday. “I will not drop this ball.”

The Hungarian government said it was willing to consider “each and every legal argument” put forward by the commission and denied that the law posed a threat to the CEU in Budapest.

Orban, 53, has enjoyed a degree of political protection in Europe because of Fidesz’s membership of the EPP, which also includes the party of the EU’s most powerful figure, German Chancellor Angela Merkel. This gave Orban, who won re-election in 2014, room to antagonize his allies over matters such as the push for Europe-wide refugee quotas and sanctions against Russia linked to the conflict in Ukraine.

While it gave no indication after Saturday’s discussion with Orban that Fidesz faces a threat of expulsion, the EPP used tougher-than-usual language in expressing concerns about the Hungarian educational law. It said Orban pledged to comply with the EU inquiry. The European umbrella party also added criticism of a Hungarian “Let’s Stop Brussels” survey, saying it featured “blatant anti-EU rhetoric” that is unacceptable.

“The constant attacks on Europe, which Fidesz has launched for years, have reached a level we cannot tolerate,” Daul said.

→ Bloomberg. 2017-04-30. The Fight in Hungary Is Over George Soros’s Legacy

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has long avoided effective censure by the European Union, even though he has long since stopped adhering to the bloc’s common values, denouncing liberalism and adopting an authoritarian style of government. But his attempt to close down the Central European University in Budapest, funded by George Soros, seems to be the last straw; the EU intends to sue Hungary over it, and sanctions may follow unless Orban leaves the CEU alone.

It’s remarkable that the controversy over the Soros project is what has brought European unhappiness with Orban to a boil. But then, the stakes are especially high for the octogenarian philanthropist: This may be his final stand in a region where he has accomplished so much — and yet seen at least as much failure.

In the final paragraph of her 2015 book, “Buying a Better World: George Soros and Billionaire Philanthropy,” Anna Porter wrote:

It would be ironic if the Soros legacy — as viewed through the lens of the next century — is the Central European University in Budapest. Ironic, because the one thing that Soros never wanted was an edifice, a building to house his ideas. But it is also fitting because CEU may yet turn out to be the incubator of future leaders and, with a bit of luck, they will lead to a better world.

That’s not a generous summary of Soros’s legacy. And yet, after spending more than $13 billion over 33 years, Soros’s Open Society Foundations and their predecessor organizations haven’t been able to foster open, non-authoritarian societies in many of the countries where much of that money was spent. Russia, one of the biggest arenas for Soros philanthropy (and a country to which he once casually lent $700 million from his private account to cover a pension shortfall), kicked out all the Soros organizations in 2015, declaring them a threat to state security. In Macedonia, one of the former Yugoslav countries that have been a focus of Soros activities, Nikola Gruevski, the former prime minister who heads the ruling national party, accuses him of destabilizing the country with his “ideological” investments. In Poland, another eastern European country where nationalists have won power, a big recipient of Soros funding is under threat

In Hungary, Soros’s country of origin, his contributions were initially welcomed, including by student activist Viktor Orban, who went to Oxford on a Soros-funded scholarship. But lately, Orban has lost patience with the philanthropist. In a speech to the European Parliament this week, he said,

We have a dispute partly with you and partly with an American financial speculator. I know that the power, size and weight of Hungary is much smaller than that of the financial speculator, George Soros, who is now attacking Hungary and who – despite ruining the lives of millions of European people with his financial speculations, and being penalized in Hungary for speculations, and who is an openly admitted enemy of the euro – is so highly praised that he is received by the EU’s top leaders.

Soros’s wealth and the alleged generosity of his political investments is a leitmotif for his many critics. That argument is spurious, however. In 2015, the year his organization was forced to leave Russia, his total expenditure in the former Soviet Union (excluding the Baltic states) reached $58.2 million, less than 10 percent of it in Russia itself. The Open Society Foundations’ budget for all of Europe in 2017 is $78.1 million. The Russian government is spending more than $320 million on a single foreign-language propaganda channel, RT. 

The Central European University spent $59.7 million euros ($65.2 million) in the 2015-2016 academic year — some 9 percent of the Hungarian government’s higher education budget. If a dollar spent by Soros and Orban buys an equal share of voice, the prime minister has nothing to worry about.

The paradox of Soros’s money is that it achieves both too much and too little per dollar spent. 

In the 1990s, when Soros’s attempted post-Communist clean-up job was just starting, the organization was often ad hoc and not particularly accountable. In every country where he wanted to operate, Soros found people who agreed with his view of an ideal country: Democratic, with an active civil society, open to the rest of the world, free of nationalist hang-ups. He gave them money and lots of operational freedom. They found — or, in fact, already knew — more like-minded people. The Soros-funded charities turned into clubs and support networks for a certain kind of pro-Western intellectual — people who, during post-Communist transitions, turned into eastern European “flexians,” flitting between academia, think tanks and government to shape modernization policies. 

These people were smart and vocal, and they attracted more attention than warranted by their numbers or the funding they received. Paul Stubbs of the Institute of Economics in Zagreb, Croatia, wrote in a 2013 paper on the role of the Soros foundations in former Yugoslavia:

It is impossible to know what a post-Yugoslav space without the Open Society Foundations in the 1990s would have been like. There would certainly have been support for new NGOs and the supposed building of civil societies and there was massive humanitarian assistance often far exceeding the sums Soros provided. At the same time, alternative media and culture would probably have struggled to secure levels of funding coming close to that which they received from the Foundations. 

But funding the westernizing intellectual elites had its downside. As Stubbs pointed out, “in its claims to intellectual superiority, cosmopolitan sentiment and profound anti-nationalism” this circle “may have served to both define the contours of political opposition and reduce their broader social impact and resonance.” The Soros money insulated the modernizers from the need to seek local funding. The emergence of an international community for such people — a lecture circuit, a system of grants, schools such as the Central European University — created a pleasant alternative to local struggles. In part because of this, little public support emerged for the intellectuals’ ideas. Soros wanted to build open societies, but instead — at least in eastern Europe — he succeeded in building a system of ivory towers.

It is a tribute to the power of ideas that eastern Europe’s authoritarians fear Soros far more than can be justified by his spending on causes hostile to them. It’s a testament to the weakness of ideas alone that the backlash against Soros’s understanding of a good society is stronger than his charity’s institutional effect. Soros’s ideas won’t win out if the EU forces Orban to leave the CEU alone; they would only win if Hungarians voted Orban out for a pro-EU liberal. But, as Porter pointed out, if the university endures and its alumni integrate into political life, things may gradually change in that direction.


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