BUDAPEST, Hungary — Hungary’s government said Thursday it sees no reason to alter the recently amended education law which could force a university founded by billionaire George Soros to leave the country.
Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s chief of staff said the conflict over Budapest-based Central European University was “political hysteria.”
Janos Lazar said the government’s position was included in a reply to legal proceedings launched in April by the European Union because of concerns that the new legislation could infringe on European norms.
“The European Commission was unable to present a single, normal legal argument which could be taken seriously,” Lazar said.
On May 17, the European Parliament adopted a separate resolution calling for an investigation to determine whether Hungarian laws are in “serious breach of EU values” and the start of a procedure which could lead to the suspension of Hungary’s EU voting rights.
Lazar blamed the steps taken by the EU on Soros. “George Soros lobbied well in Brussels since he was well able to mobilize the European Parliament and the European Commission,” Lazar said.
The chief of staff also said Hungary’s government is ready to accept New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s offer to hold talks about the future of CEU, which is also accredited in New York state.
The new amendments would force CEU to establish a campus in New York state if it wants to stay in Hungary, but the university says that would be unnecessary and expensive.
While the amendments apply to over 20 foreign universities operating in Hungary, the campus proviso and other conditions in the law are seen as targeting CEU.
The CEU issue is part of a wider government campaign accusing Soros, a Hungarian-American, of trying to influence Hungarian politics. A draft bill expected to be approved next month on non-governmental groups receiving funds from abroad is seen by NGOs, some of which get money from Soros foundations, as an effort to intimidate them.