The European Union has issued one-month ultimatum to Hungary to address its concerns over the country’s education law which it claimed runs counter to the bloc’s values or face court sanction.
European Commission Deputy Head, Frans Timmermans, handed down the warning on Thursday in Brussels.
He called on the Hungarian government to respond within a month to Brussels’ criticism that the Higher Education Law could lead to the closure of a Budapest university founded by U.S. financier George Soros.
The EU executive had expressed concern over what it sees as Prime Minister, Viktor Orban’s authoritarian tendencies.
“We expect a reaction from the Hungarian authorities within a month.
“If the response is not satisfactory, the Commission can decide to go to the Court,’’ Timmermans said in a statement.
He said that the law runs counter to the right of academic freedom, the right to education and freedom to conduct business.
The Commission also sent a letter to Hungary, saying a new law governing foreign-funded non-government organisations did not comply with EU legislation.
The letter is the first step toward legal action by the 28-country EU.
While Brussels could open cases against EU member states violating common rules, the process of litigation are lengthy and often with little impact.
That means the EU executive has limited leverage over Orban, who has been in office since 2010.
Orban has often criticized the EU and repeatedly clashed with non-governmental organisations sponsored by Soros, who promotes liberal and internationalist world view that the nationalist-minded Hungarian leader dislikes.
A recent anti-migrant billboard campaign by Orban’s government featured the image of Soros, a Hungarian-born Jew, was criticised by Jewish groups and others for fomenting anti-Semitism.
The threat of legal action comes after months of dialogue between the Commission and Hungary over grievances that go beyond the higher education law.
Orban’s “illiberal” brand of democracy had earned him a tongue-in-cheek greeting of “Hello Dictator!” from the head of the executive, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.
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