Freedom House is a remarkable and largely admirable organisation. Over the years it has done some great work challenging governments with a tendency towards the authoritarian. Yet its attacks on the government of Hungary are increasingly off-kilter.
Regular readers will recall that the Hungarian government differs from the German government in believing that it is not desirable to invite the entire developing world to come and live in your country. The Hungarian government – led by Prime Minister Viktor Orban – also differs from the views of Hungary’s wealthiest son, George Soros, who along with the numerous NGOs that he funds has spent recent years undermining the borders of Europe, and specifically the borders of Hungary. When Orban criticised Soros in 2015, the multi-billionaire responded by clarifying the difference between himself and Orban thus:
‘[Orban’s] plan treats the protection of national borders as the objective and the refugees as an obstacle. Our plan treats the protection of refugees as the objective and national borders as the obstacle.’
Anyhow – in recent weeks the Hungarian government has upped its campaign against Soros and his NGOs. This has included a nationwide billboard advertising campaign in the country. About which, as with much of the rest of the behaviour of the Orban government, there is much to say. But here is the response of Freedom House. According to Michael J Abramowitz, the president of Freedom House:
‘The government of Hungary has resorted to tactics reminiscent of the darkest days of dictatorship in its vilification of refugees, and civil society organisations that advocate an orderly, humane policy of immigration.’
To which the first thing to say is, if the migration of recent years is an ‘orderly’ transition of refugees then I would hate to see what Freedom House would define as disorderly. For instance here are photos from one of the migrant camps of Greece I was at last summer and which last week was once again burned down by its inhabitants. Here are some of the recent scenes, filmed by the BBC, of what is happening in the sea off the Italian coastline this summer. And anyone who wants to see what this orderly, humane policy of immigration looks like in practice can then also go to almost any train or bus station in Italy, and numerous street-corners across the continent and there find many thousands of migrants enjoying a far from humane policy.
Freedom House goes on to say of Soros:
‘His organisation has sought to secure fundamental freedoms for all Hungarians, including minorities. The political views of its founder are not legitimate topics of concern of Hungary’s government. The government’s demonization of refugees and of civil society should offend all who value basic human rights and open, democratic societies.’
Actually the political views of George Soros are not only of legitimate concern to the Hungarian government. They should be of enormous concern to the Hungarian government, as they should be to all other European governments. What should be a greater concern to a government than somebody who founds and funds numerous organisations which seek to undermine your borders and teach people how to learn the loopholes in the existing laws of your continent? Freedom House, like many other groups, may dislike the Orban government, but pretending that the Hungarian government’s dislike for Soros comes from nowhere sadly mixes up advocacy with fantasy.
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