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OSF Budapest office closes on Friday

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Following its decision earlier this year, the Open Society Foundations (OSF), the international grantmaking network founded by Hungarian-born investor and philanthropist George Soros, will close its office in Budapest this week and move operations to Berlin. The head of the office, Katalin E. Koncz, will not follow the staff.

The OSF announced in May that it will close operations in Budapest due to what it described as an increasingly repressive political and legal environment in Hungary. Preparations are now finished and the office will close on Friday.

The decision to move operations out of Budapest came as the Hungarian government imposed further restrictions on non-governmental organizations (NGOs) through its “Stop Soros” package of legislation, which has since become the subject of an EU infringement procedure against Hungary.

“The government of Hungary has denigrated and misrepresented our work and repressed civil society for the sake of political gain, using tactics unprecedented in the history of the European Union,” said OSF President Patrick Gaspard in May. “The so-called Stop Soros package of laws is only the latest in a series of such attempts.”

The office staff of more than 100 employees needed to choose between relocating to Berlin or leaving the OSF. In an interview with left-leaning Hungarian weekly magazine 168 óra, Koncz said that with the departure of the office, she considers her work, started 25 years ago, as finished.

“It was exactly 25 years ago that I started building an institute that I have now to pick apart,” said Koncz. “I decided relatively early that if we cannot continue our work here, then for me this is the end, I will not continue,” she added. Koncz already communicated her decision to Soros, who accepted it.

“I am Hungarian, I lived through the high hopes of the regime change and followed the process of Hungarian society going in a completely different direction. This is not my direction,” Koncz told 168 óra.

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