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Soros says: Czechs lack enough businessmen caring for public interest

The Czech Republic does not have a large enough entrepreneur community that would care for public interest, philanthropist George Soros said at a conference about philanthropy in Central and Eastern Europe today.

Soros said that it is companies caring for public interest who can push a country forward and create a balanced, open society. He said that from this point of view the situation in the Czech Republic is rather depressive. Soros said that it seemed that the Czech economy thrived, but that people were not happy as business was dominated by its own interests and corruption flourished.

Czech Deputy Prime Minister Alexandr Vondra (Civic Democrats, ODS) said that he believed the situation was not so bad. He recalled that a dozen of top companies in the Czech Republic gave over 25 million euros for projects of public interest last year, which was more than the contributions of the top companies in Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia together. Vondra said he believed that Soros's skepticism is based on his bad experience from the 1990s.

In 1990, Soros founded Central European University (CEU) in Prague and donated $25 million to it. The Czech government originally promised to cover the running costs of the university's building and staff, while Soros would pay for everything else. However, then cabinet of Vaclav Klaus decided to stop fully covering the running costs and Soros decided to leave Prague as a result. The conference on philanthropy was organized by the Policy Association for an Open Society (PASOS) and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and it was attended by Czech financier Zdenek Bakala, Robert Amsterdam, lawyer of oil magnate Mikhail Khodorkovsky, and others. (