Skip to main content

Europe

From Brussels to the Balkans, the Open Society Foundations are actively engaged in supporting an inclusive and democratic vision of Europe—building on George Soros’s early commitments to the region after the fall of the Berlin Wall.


Offices and Foundations

Tirana, Albania

Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina

Berlin, Germany

In 2018, in response to the increasingly oppressive political environment in Hungary, the Open Society Foundations transferred operations and roughly 100 staff from Budapest to a new regional headquarters in Berlin, Germany.

Pristina, Kosovo

Skopje, North Macedonia

Belgrade, Serbia

London, United Kingdom

The London office is a base for both regional and global work on issues ranging from education to investigative journalism to economic advancement.

Brussels, Belgium

The Brussels office focuses on ensuring that EU policy, laws, and funding uphold human rights and reflect open society values.

Barcelona, Spain

The Barcelona office is home to the Open Society Initiative for Europe.

By the Numbers

$92.1M 2019 Budget for Europe
8.5% Percentage of global budget
4.6% Average annual change in budget since 2016

Regional Budget by Year

Explore our full budget by theme and region

Our History

The Open Society Foundations’ presence in Europe dates back to 1984, when George Soros opened his first foundation in Communist Hungary. However, it was the end of Soviet Communism in the 1990s that gave the Foundations a historic opportunity to support the newly emerging democracies of Central and Eastern Europe and the Balkans. Today, the Foundations support an array of civil society groups across Europe, with the same overall focus: ensuring that everyone should have a voice in the decisions that affect them. 

Highlights of Our Work in Europe


A woman in a crowd holds the EU flag above her head.
People attend a rally in support of the EU in Budapest, Hungary, on May 1, 2017. © Bernadett Szabo/Reuters/Newscom

Our Work

Our work in the region, coordinated by the Open Society Initiative for Europe, focuses on building a Europe that is more inclusive and more democratic.

Civil Liberties

The Open Society Initiative for Europe supports a range of groups across Europe that promote fundamental political and personal rights and challenge discrimination and abuse. This included supporting the 2017 launch of Liberties, a Berlin-based organization that seeks to give national civil liberty organizations a coordinated voice on Europe-wide issues. The Open Society Justice Initiative has worked across Europe to challenge racially discriminatory practices, including in policing, through research and advocacy and through litigation before both national courts and the European Court of Human Rights.

A group of people who are wearing winter clothing and attending an outdoor rally taking place on a public square.
Attendees of a rally against police brutality in Paris, France, on February 18, 2017. © Hugo Aymar/HAYTHAM-REA/Redux

Democratic Participation

Healthy democracies involve citizens in decisions that affect them at all levels—not just during national elections. The Open Society European Policy Institute works to influence and inform decision-making on European Union laws, policy, and funding to ensure that open society values lie at the heart of what the European Union does, both inside and outside its borders. Our foundation in Albania has worked with the Swiss government’s aid agency to develop citizen participation in local decision-making, while in France, the Open Society Initiative for Europe has helped fund new online platforms that seek to promote citizen engagement in policymaking.

Economic Justice and Inclusion

The Open Society Foundations work to challenge a range of systemic and structural barriers that fuel economic inequality and injustice. This includes efforts by the Open Society Initiative for Europe to support workers in the emerging gig economy, and support from the Economic Justice Program for new models of cooperative worker ownership. The Open Society Justice Initiative has worked to develop legal arguments to challenge home repossession orders in Ireland, and to bring European human rights law to bear on predatory lending practices.

A woman walks past a wall with street art painted on it.
A woman in Dublin walks past a wall with street art protesting Ireland's housing crisis on October 25, 2018. © Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters/Newscom

Health and Rights

The Open Society Foundations first started working on public health issues in the former Communist countries of Central and Eastern Europe, where we supported the modernization of decrepit medical infrastructure and a new focus on patients’ rights. Today, our Public Health Program works to ensure that everyone can get access to health care, including Roma communities and other at-risk groups in the Balkans and Central and Eastern Europe, and supports efforts to make life-saving medicine affordable to all.

A doctor conduts an eye examination on a patient in a doctor's office.
A Roma medical student conducts an eye exam on a patient in Sofia, Bulgaria. © Boryana Katsarova for the Open Society Foundations

Roma

Over the past 30 years, George Soros and the Open Society Foundations have been the leading private funders of efforts to support Europe’s estimated 10 to 12 million Roma people. We support initiatives in the areas of education, early childhood, public health, participation in public and political life, arts and culture, entrepreneurship, and human rights protection.

A woman is spinning in a floral skirt among an audience of people in large atrium hall.
An actor performs at the launch of the European Roma Institute for Arts and Culture in Berlin, Germany. © Gordon Welters/Laif/Redux for the Open Society Foundations

Today, our Roma Initiatives Office supports Roma participation in democratic institutions, and it advocates for European states to provide equal services and justice to Roma people.

In 2017, Open Society supported the launch of the Berlin-based European Roma Institute for Arts and Culture, the first organization of its kind to promote Roma artists and their work. 

Migration

Since 2015, the Open Society Foundations have increased our support for groups in Europe that work to ensure the safety of newly arrived migrants and refugees, and to ease the challenges of integration.

A man and a woman look over the shoulder of a second man who is sitting at a desk and looking at the monitor of his desktop computer.
A Nigerian migrant and his wife look over the shoulder of a man who is searching for legal documents in an office in southern Italy on February 8, 2016. © Francesco Pistilli for the Open Society Foundations

Our work has included supporting aid efforts by local groups in Greece, Italy, and the Balkans, as well as human rights groups that ensure that migrants and asylum seekers are treated fairly and with dignity. The Open Society Initiative for Europe works to assist towns and cities on migrant routes in ways that also deliver benefits for local residents.

In Ireland, Spain, and the United Kingdom, our International Migration Initiative has worked with governments on the development of refugee resettlement schemes based on a successful Canadian model for helping newly arrived families adjust to their new homes.

Preparing for the European Union

Our national foundations in the Western Balkans are helping governments and society as a whole move toward membership in the European Union.

In Albania, we have jointly funded a network of young professionals that promotes and monitors the performance of the integration process. We are also providing expert support for an overhaul of the country’s judicial system. In North Macedonia, our local foundation in Skopje has backed efforts to bring the civil service, police, and judiciary in line with the standards required by Brussels.

An elderly man with military insignia on his jacket stands amidst a crowd during a sunny day.
A veteran of World War II attends a protest in Tirana, Albania, on July 21, 2016. © Gent Shkullaku/AFP/Getty

Read more

Sign up for updates on Open Society’s work around the world