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Lázár: Orbán would repay scholarship in snub of Soros

In order to demonstrate his political distance from Hungarian-born billionaire George Soros, Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán is ready to repay the scholarship that he received from Sorosʼs foundation in 1989, Cabinet Chief János Lázár said today.

Government Spokesperson Zoltán Kovács and Cabinet Chief János Lázár at their press conference today. (Photo: MTI/Szilárd Koszticsák)

Speaking at his weekly press conference, Lázár said that the prime minister told him that if “Mr Soros needs the money, those who received scholarships will pay them back,” according to Hungarian online daily 

In the last couple of weeks, Lázár and Orbán have been ratcheting up their criticism of Soros, who has been a strong advocate of the need to help refugees in Europe, and has also funded efforts to provide that help. 

Orbán advocates keeping refugees and asylum seekers out of Hungary and Europe. He has said it is essential to keep Muslims from “diluting” Europeʼs Christian population and that keeping refugees out of this country is necessary to protect Hungariansʼ “wives and daughters”.

During his university years, Orbán received a scholarship from the Soros Foundation and spent four months in Oxford, England, where he studied at Pembroke College, Oxford University, in 1989, according to his CV posted on the Parliament’s official website. Orbán halted his studies in England and came back to Hungary for the elections held in 1990.

News outlets have noted that government spokesperson Zoltán Kovács also used to receive a scholarship at the Soros-funded Central European University. Kovács, who was also present at the press conference, said he received that the scholarship as part of his civilian life before 2001, and it has nothing to do with the political views he nurtures and political activities he conducts after 2010.

Lázár said that, just because officials once received funding from Soros does not mean they are beholden to the philanthropist. “It is a big problem if György Soros believes that scholarships provided by him should go hand in hand with promoting his views, without criticizing them,” Lázár told the press conference.