The head of the European Union’s executive arm will meet U.S. financier George Soros next Thursday, a spokeswoman said, as part of consultations on a new Hungarian law that has threatened to force the closure of a university he funds.
The Central European University is at the heart of the latest dispute between Hungary and the European Commission in Brussels, which voices concern in many Western EU states that Budapest is infringing on rule of law and democratic standards.
The Commission’s spokeswoman on Wednesday said its deputy head Frans Timmermans and two other commissioners will also meet Soros next week, after Brussels already threatened Hungary with legal action over rights issues and the Soros school.
Orban, whose right-wing government has been in power since 2010, has faced a series of mass protests in the past two weeks after it passed legislation that targets a top international university founded by billionaire financier and liberal philanthropist George Soros in Budapest.
Orban has long criticized civil society organizations funded by Hungarian-born Soros, accusing them of opposing his tough migration policies and supporting illegal migration. He says the CEU has violated Hungarian rules – an accusation the university rejects. His government also wants to tighten rules on non-governmental organisations.
The EU and the United States have sharply criticized the new legislation. Rights groups say it is part of a wider crackdown on dissent in Hungary, after curbs on the public media, state institutions and the constitutional court.
The European Commission – often at odds with Orban – threatened Hungary with legal action over a series of measures including the education law, saying they ran counter to the EU’s values of human rights and democracy.
Analysts say Orban wants to solidify his nationalist-minded voter base ahead of the 2018 election.