Today, Hungarian-American financier George Soros published an article on op-ed site Project Syndicate, in which he discussed the challenges and opportunities facing the European Union, the future of the Euro, Brexit, and Hungary.
The article, entitled “Standing up for Europe,” (and which you can read in full here) begins with a brief overview of external threats facing Europe, ranging from Putin to Erdogan to Sisi, before turning his attention to the threats the EU faces “from within.”
These include the troubles facing the eurozone, the euro as a currency, and the institutional structure of the EU itself. In Soros’ view, the Union needs to be “radically reinvented”; in particular,
Europe needs a collaborative effort that combines the EU institutions’ top-down approach with the bottom-up initiatives needed to engage the electorate.
One part of this reinvention, in the Hungarian-American billionaire’s view, would entail “replacing a ‘multi-speed’ Europe with a ‘multi-track’ Europe that allows member states a wider variety of democratic choices”. In addition, he argues that, “if cooperation produced positive results,” member states might become more interested in greater European cohesion.
Soros also discusses the challenges, and opportunities, posed by the upcoming Brexit negotiations, which he believes will stretch significantly past the currently-allotted two-year span.
At the end of his essay, Soros turns his attention to his homeland, Hungary. He discussed the resistance and massive protests that have sprung up in response to the Hungarian government’s recent policies, particularly its controversial “Lex CEU” legislation, as being “as surprising to Orbán as it is to me.”
Soros also mocks the Orbán government’s depiction of himself as somehow being Hungary’s true ‘enemy,’ writing that the Prime Minister “casts himself as the defender of Hungarian sovereignty and me as a currency speculator who uses his money to flood Europe with illegal immigrants as part of some vague but nefarious plot.”
He also reacts to the Hungarian government’s amendments to the country’s high-education law that would essentially make the Central European University’s (CEU) continued existence in Budapest impossible. Soros categorically rejects Fidesz’s depictions of CEU as a ‘Soros university,’ writing that
the truth is that I am the proud founder of Central European University, which, after 26 years, has come to rank among the world’s top 50 universities in many of the social sciences. By endowing CEU, I have enabled it to defend its academic freedom from outside interference, whether by the Hungarian government or anyone else (including its founder).
Soros adds that he has “learned two lessons” from the ‘Lex CEU’ controversy, the first of which being that “it is not enough to rely on the rule of law to defend open societies; you must also stand up for what you believe,” which he says that CEU and Hungarian NGOs are doing. While acknowledging the precarious nature of the present situation, Soros expresses his belief that “their determined defense of academic freedom and freedom of association will eventually set in motion Europe’s slow-moving wheels of justice.”
The second “lesson” the billionaire financier claims to have learned is that “democracy can’t be imposed from the outside; it needs to be achieved and defended by the people themselves.” In this regard, he says,
I admire the courageous way Hungarians have resisted the deception and corruption of the mafia state Orbán has established, and I am encouraged by the European institutions’ energetic response to the challenges emanating from Poland and Hungary. While the path ahead is perilous, I can clearly see in such struggles the prospect of the EU’s revival.
Image via georgesoros.com