A new movement dedicated to countering the influence of billionaire US philanthropist George Soros has been formed in Macedonia, shortly after the leader of the main ruling VMRO DPMNE party, Nikola Gruevski, stepped up attacks against NGOs financed from aboard.
The Stop Operation Soros movement, SOS, was presented on Wednesday in Skopje. Its founders are the editor-in-chief of the state-run news agency MIA, Cvetin Cilimanov, the editor-in-chief of the pro-government Republika news portal, Nenad Mircevski, and Nikola Srbov, a columnist for another pro-government news portal, Kurir.
The founders called on all “free minded citizens” to join SOS in the “fight against one-mindedness in the civil sector, which is devised and led by George Soros”.
They say their first activities will focus on exposing the subversive activities of Macedonian NGOs financed by the billionaire in Macedonia.
NGOs backed by the Soros Foundation have long been a target of nationalist governments in Russia, Hungary, Macedonia and elsewhere, where authorities are deeply suspicious of their politically and socially liberal agenda and focus on human rights.
A former opposition MP, Professor Gjorge Spasov warned of the seriousness of the recent attacks on NGOs in Macedonia, noting that, along with the opposition Social Democrats, SDSM, “the Soros Foundation in Macedonia, judging by the [ruling] party’s press releases, are the ‘undertakers’ of the democracy built by Gruevski, puppets, mercenary revolutionaries, a disgrace and a disaster for Macedonia.
“Judging by this vocabulary and its intensity, Gruevski is launching a purge which should end in the banning of the Open Society Foundation – Macedonia, and if possible, of the Social Democrats, too,” Spasov wrote on Facebook.
Last last year, immediately after the December 11 early general elections, which Gruevski’s party narrowly won, he issued a direct threat to NGOs that receive funds from abroad, saying his party would “fight for the de-Soros-isation of the country”.
Since then, the party’s press releases have announced that work on “de-Soros-isation” has already begun, also naming various activists in the NGO sector as “foreign mercenaries” who work against the national interest.
Russia more or less outlawed Soros-affiliated organisations in 2015. This January, authorities in Hungary said they would use “all the tools at its disposal” to “sweep out” NGOs funded by the Hungarian-born financier, which “serve global capitalists and back political correctness over national governments.” Hungarian Leader Viktor Orban last year accused Soros of destabilizing Europe by encouraging mass immigration to Europe from Middle Eastern war zones.
Born in Hungary in 1930, Soros moved to England in 1947 and to the US in 1956. An active philanthropist and supporter of liberal causes, his Open Society Foundations operate in about 60 countries.