By Stefan Wagstyl in Warsaw
June 18 2009
George Soros, the billionaire investor and philanthropist, 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.
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.
“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”.
Mr Soros’s gift will be concentrated on countries facing the severest recessions, including Ukraine, the Baltic states, the Balkans, and parts of central Asia and the Caucasus. The funds will target charities working with children and the young, and NGOs, some of which may have suffered declines in local donations.
Mr Soros has for over a decade concentrated his philanthropic work in the region on support for think tanks and similar organizations. But he said it was time to return, for a while, to the humanitarian aid he gave in the early 1990s. The gift follows a $50m donation he made recently to a New York charity.
See also: http://www.soros.org/newsroom/news/europe_20090618