By Georgi Gotev
(EurActiv) — European 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.
Commission spokesperson Mina Andreeva said its First Vice-President Frans Timmermans and two other Commissioners will also meet Soros this week, after Brussels already threatened Hungary with legal action over rights issues and the Soros school.
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.
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.