George Soros is “giving $100m to central and eastern Europe to counter the impact of the economic crisis on the poor, voluntary groups and non-government organsations,” Stefan Wagstyl reports for FT.
Mr Soros disclosed the planned gift in an interview with the FT in which he urged the European Union to boost its aid for the region to finance increased welfare spending and tackle rising political extremism. “The political risk is very severe and the rise of the chauvinistic, xenophobic far right is a disturbing development,” said Mr Soros, in a reference to the advances made by extremist parties in the recent European parliament elections, including Jobbik in Hungary, the Slovak National Party and the Greater Romania Party.
While Soros has the right to spend his money as he sees fit, the truth of the matter is that fringe parties made a lot of news but picked up few seats. The European Parliament will continue to be dominated by centrist parties.
“The EU must do more in terms of providing support, including financial support. The International Monetary Fund programmes [launched in Hungary, Ukraine, Latvia and about five other countries] are very severe in terms of cutting budgets. The EU must solidify support for EU values,” said Mr Soros.
The Hungarian-born businessman, who has given over $3bn to the region since the fall of Communism, urged Brussels not to limit its assistance to EU members, such as Poland, but to support countries further afield, especially Ukraine. “The region has suffered a setback through no fault of its own as this is a crisis that fundamentally originated in the west, and central and eastern Europe turns out to be hardest hit.”
While some might take issue with the idea that these countries, especially Ukraine, are entirely blameless, there’s not much question that the region has been particularly hard hit. Of course, while $100 million is a huge sum by individual standards, it’s a drop in the proverbial bucket at the nation-state, much less the regional, level.
James Joyner is managing editor of the Atlantic Council.