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Alex Soros is the president of the Open Society Foundations.
Reports that the Open Society Foundations (OSF) and Soros are “leaving Europe” are misleading. We are not leaving. Europe remains of considerable strategic importance to OSF’s work, which began in the 1980s, when my father began funding independent thinkers in his native Hungary, then a Soviet satellite of Eastern Europe. Is a communist. And today, for all its faults, the European Union remains a global model of the values that shape our work.
However, when we look at the current state of Europe, it is clear that our foundations must change – just as it did after the fall of the Berlin Wall, when our efforts were focused on gaining membership. Central and Eastern European countries to the EU; and just as was the case after the economic crisis of 2008, when we first intensified our work on a large scale in Brussels and Western Europe.
Generally speaking, we are witnessing a shift towards the East in Europe. The war in Ukraine will have incalculable consequences, while Poland’s rise as a leading economy will eventually make it a net contributor to the EU. The future of responsible and democratic government in Europe is now being played out not only in Paris and Berlin, but also in Warsaw, kyiv and Prague.
So, as OSF reorganizes the way it works globally, we are readjusting our priorities in Europe accordingly. Yes, this means we will abandon certain areas of work to focus on the challenges of today as well as those we face tomorrow. And yes, we will also significantly reduce our workforce, seeking to ensure more money goes where it is needed most.
But it’s not some kind of retirement.
In a surprising twist, a Hungarian government official was proven right when he expressed skepticism on media reports. This is not a question of funding levels, but rather a question of priorities, as funding again focuses on the east of the continent.
First of all, there is no doubt that we will continue to support our foundation in Ukraine. We are proud that the network of civil society groups he has helped, with more than $250 million since 2014, has played such an important role in Kyiv’s resilience in the face of Russia’s horrific war of aggression. Russia.
Furthermore, we will continue to support our foundations in Moldova and the Western Balkans as these countries work towards EU membership, which my father, in the case of the Balkans, first championed in the 1990s. EU membership is vital to ensure the unity and stability of the entire Balkan region in order to counter efforts to reignite conflict in Bosnia and Kosovo, for example, and to give Russia an opening. Furthermore, EU membership will strengthen European security and avoid creating a geopolitical vacuum.
We will also maintain – and significantly increase – our efforts to ensure equal treatment for Europe’s largest ethnic minority, the 12 million Roma (most of whom live in Eastern Europe).
And we remain committed to the Central European University (CEU), which was closed in Budapest by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and has now found a new home in Vienna, thanks to the generosity of my father and OSF. Over the past three decades, CEU has provided high-quality, accessible education to thousands of young people – and will continue to do so.
We will not abandon our allies who defend democratic rights against autocrats and would-be dictators – neither in Europe nor in the rest of the world.
But we must be ready and able to respond to an uncertain and dangerous future.
As someone who spends up to half his time working on the continent and who thinks that former US President Donald Trump – or at least someone with his isolationist, anti-European policies – will be the Republican candidate, I believe in a Republican MAGA victory. Next year’s US presidential election could ultimately be worse for the EU than for the US. Such an outcome would jeopardize European unity and undermine progress made on many fronts in response to the war in Ukraine.
We are adapting OSF to be able to respond to all scenarios that could emerge, on both sides of the Atlantic.
Like my father, I consider the EU to be one of the great triumphs of modern history. He brought together countries that nearly destroyed civilization to forge a common destiny, and helped the former Soviet republics and its separatist satellites move toward democracy. But there is still work to be done.
And I very much hope that OSF, in its reconfigured form, will be able to help the European project realize all its promises.