BUDAPEST Hungary will push ahead with legislation to put foreign-funded non-governmental organisations under more scrutiny, as those financed by billionaire George Soros operate as a "mafia-like" network, Prime Minister Viktor Orban said on Friday.
Orban, a right-wing populist, has long criticised civil society organisations funded by Hungarian-born Soros, accusing them of opposing his tough migration policies, and working as paid political activists advocating Soros' goals.
The Hungarian premier, who faces elections in April 2018, said Soros' statement on Thursday that he admired "the courageous way Hungarians have resisted the deception and corruption of the mafia state Orban has established", was a declaration of war.
"This is a declaration of war, no doubt," Orban told state radio. "The only network which operates in mafia ways, which is not transparent... in Hungary is the Soros network."
"This is why we must insist, and I personally insist on having a parliament decision on making these organisations transparent," Orban added.
Under legislation submitted to parliament by the government, non-governmental organisations with foreign donations of at least 7.2 million forints (20,441.43 pounds) will be required to register with authorities and declare themselves as foreign-funded. The NGOs have said the bill stigmatises them.
Parliament is expected to pass the bill later this month despite mass protests by Hungarians at home, and a resolution passed in European Parliament which condemned what it called a "serious deterioration" in the rule of law and fundamental rights in Hungary.
Orban's critics say the move against NGOs is part of his broader push to stifle dissenting voices and put independent institutions - including the judiciary, media - under closer government control.
Orban, in power since 2010, has often bashed the EU and repeatedly clashed with non-governmental organisations sponsored by Soros, who promotes a liberal and internationalist worldview that the nationalist-minded Hungarian leader dislikes.
(Reporting by Krisztina Than)