Soros gets warm Brussels reception amid spat with Hungary

George Soros is one of the most vocal defenders of strengthening the economic and monetary union. [European Commission]

Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and several Commissioners will meet US financier George Soros next Thursday (27 April) as part of consultations on a new Hungarian law that could close a university he funds, and of legislation targeting foreign-funded NGOs.

The Central European University (CEU) 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.

Hungarian president signs law threatening Soros university

Hungarian President János Áder yesterday (10 April) approved a controversial law seen as targeting the respected Central European University founded by US billionaire George Soros, despite protests at home and abroad.

Commission spokesperson Mina Andreeva today (21 April) said its First Vice-President 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.

Commission to consider minor penalties against ‘illiberal’ Hungary

The European Commission said today (12 April) it will decide by the end of the month on the possibility of launching infringement procedures against Hungary, stopping short of mentioning heavier punishments.

On Monday, Timmermans will receive Michael Ignatieff, president and rector of CEU.

Timmermans recently said the draft law on the foreign funding of non-governmental organisations, which is expected to be approved by mid-May, was on the Commission’s radar.

Critics say the initiative is part of a wider crackdown on liberal democratic values by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán that seeks to stigmatise the organisations and their members.

The two other Commissioners who will receive Soros are Vĕra Jourová, responsible for justice, and Jyrki Katainen, responsible for growth, jobs, investment and competitiveness. Interestingly, no meeting is scheduled for Soros with Hungarian Commissioner Tibor Navracsics, incidentally responsible for education.

Andreeva was asked when the Commission would made public its own response to the “Stop Brussels” initiative of the Orbán government. Questionnaires titled “Let’s stop Brussels!” have been arriving in Hungarian letterboxes since 1 April, only days after leaders gathered in Rome to mark the EU’s 60th anniversary.

Juncker speaks out on Hungary’s illiberal drift

Asked by EURACTIV to comment on the “illiberal” drift in Hungary, Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said today (6 April) that he did not like the push to close the Central European University, founded by George Soros, and commented on the “Let’s Stop Brussels” initiative.

She said that as the Hungarians themselves were given some time to reply to the questionnaire, the tentative date for the reply is early May.

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