School law increases Orban feud with Soros
BRUSSELS | Hungary’s prime minister on Wednesday dismissed concerns about his country’s new higher education law after the European Union launched legal action amid fears the legislation is aimed at shutting down a university founded by liberal Hungarian-American billionaire philanthropist George Soros.
While insisting that Hungary remains committed to the European project, Viktor Orban also launched a stinging attack on Mr. Soros, branding him “an open enemy of the euro” single currency who wants to open Europe’s floodgates to a million migrants a year.
Earlier, European Commission Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis said that the EU’s executive arm has sent a “letter of formal notice” to Mr. Orban’s government, which is a first step in legal action, over the education law approved earlier this month. The commission believes it could infringe on European rights to provide services, but also rights regarding academic freedom and the right to an education.
The Hungarian government has one month to respond, and based on Budapest’s reaction, the European Commission will consider what steps to take next.
The president of the Soros-backed Central European University, Michael Ignatieff, said the standoff means that his campus in Budapest “has a gun pointed to its head” and might not be able to accept new students after Jan. 1.
But speaking to EU lawmakers in Brussels, Mr. Orban said the law is only a “minor amendment” that applies to not just CEU but to 28 universities, with the aim of introducing uniform rules, closing loopholes, introducing transparency and ending privileges.
Mr. Orban has said the CEU is “cheating” because it issues diplomas accepted both in the U.S. and in Hungary, where it has been operating since 1993. The university is accredited in New York state but has no campus there. The nationalist president says this gives it an unfair advantage over other Hungarian universities, but has denied that he wants to shut it down.