The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Hungary accused of ‘hatemongering’ in national survey targeting George Soros

An advertisement for Hungary's national consultation on the so-called Soros plan. It reads, “National Consultation on the Soros plan. Let’s not allow it without having a say!” (Human Rights Watch)

Hungarians have two more weeks to respond to a seven-question “national consultation” survey mailed to them by their government. The issue at hand is one of great importance to the Hungarian electorate — immigration and refugee quotas — but the government has come under fire from human rights groups and European Union officials who say they are engaging in “hatemongering”  propaganda.

Instead of making E.U. policy and policymakers the subjects of the survey, the government has made Jewish and Hungarian American billionaire philanthropist George Soros the chief villain of a conspiracy against Hungary. The survey questions refer to a so-called Soros plan, which was allegedly created by Soros and E.U. leaders in closed-door meetings in Brussels to force all E.U. member states to abolish refugee quotas and take down border protection walls.

Hungary's prime minister, Viktor Orban, claims Soros is the mastermind behind a surreptitious political campaign to flood Europe with Middle Eastern and African migrants and refugees. Orban is up for reelection in April, and has made criticism of Soros and E.U. immigration policy his central message. He says Brussels “eats from Soros's hand.” Soros has dismissed the criticism and the survey as “conspiracy theories.”

Hungary has so far refused to sign on to the E.U.'s refugee-sharing plan, passed in September 2015 at the height of Europe's refugee crisis, which would relocate 120,000 asylum seekers among member states. In September, a court in Brussels upheld the constitutionality of the plan, which Hungary and Slovakia had challenged along with other Central European countries.

The seven survey questions — each one essentially asking “Do you agree with this?” — are preceded by what could only be construed as leading, if not negative statements about the supposed Soros plan.

  1. George Soros wants to convince Brussels to resettle at least one million immigrants from Africa and the Middle East annually on the territory of the European Union, including Hungary as well.
  2. George Soros, together with leaders in Brussels, also plan to have the member states of the E.U., including Hungary, take down the border protection fences and open the borders for immigrants.
  3. It is part of the Soros plan that Brussels redistributes immigrants gathered in Western European countries on a mandatory basis, referring in particular to Eastern European countries. Hungary would be required to take part in this as well.
  4. Based on the Soros plan, Brussels should require every member state, including Hungary, to pay 9 million HUF (Hungarian currency equivalent to around $30,000) in mandatory state aid for every immigrant.
  5. George Soros would also like to see migrants receive lighter sentences for the crimes they commit.
  6. The goal of the Soros plan is to diminish the importance of the language and culture of European countries to make the integration of illegal immigrants happen sooner.
  7. It is part of the Soros plan to launch political attacks on countries objecting to immigration and impose strict penalties on them.

Human Rights Watch, which is partly funded by Soros's Open Society Foundations, called the survey a “hatemongering questionnaire” and said it put forward a “distorted half-truth” about both Soros's and the E.U.'s policy objectives. It characterized the fifth question, about lighter sentencing for migrants, as “incendiary and false.”

The survey seems written to imply that Brussels would force Hungary to resettle many more than the 50,000 over two years stipulated in the refugee-sharing agreement. It also eschews the E.U.'s massive spending on international efforts to stem flows of migrants, and the fact that Hungary is the biggest per capita recipient of E.U. funds within the union.

Last summer, the government sponsored another anti-Soros initiative, then with posters around the country with Soros's face and the words “Let’s not allow George Soros to have the last laugh!” Many were defaced with anti-Semitic graffiti before being taken down. Soros is Jewish. The Anti-Defamation League found that in 2015, around 40 percent of Hungarians responded “probably true” to a majority of anti-Semitic stereotypes in a survey.

On Wednesday, one of the E.U. parliament's most outspoken members, former Belgian prime minister Guy Verhofstadt, said he had requested the body's president to summon Hungary's ambassador to the European Union to stop them from following through with the “national consultation.”

It is unlikely that the Hungarian government will rescind the survey. Most Hungarians support Orban, and see E.U. refugee policy as being forced upon them.

“The musket is not only primed but loaded,” Orban said last month, “in Europe in the future, a permanent and mandatory migrant relocation quota mechanism will be established, with no upper limit on numbers.”

Orban's party has a healthy lead in polls, and the country's main left-wing party dropped out of the race citing its lowest levels of support in 25 years. The second-most popular party is the conservative, populist and nationalist Jobbik party.

Read More:

Trump in Czech: The country’s likely next prime minister sounds a lot like the U.S. president

For Austria’s Muslims, country’s hard-right turn is an ominous sign

Merkel’s stumble in the German election has big implications for Europe