Politicians across the European Parliament have denounced moves in Hungary, which could force out the Central European University – funded by George Soros – despite protests. "We all have to respect, we want to respect values to which we subscribed: that means especially freedom, democracy, human rights, peace. And when I am thinking about the Central European University, freedom of education," said Roza Thun, a Polish centre-right MEP.
MEPs are demanding an infringement process is now launched against Hungary – which could mean sanctions.
"My group, the Alde group, we are very much in favour of triggering article 7.1. And that means to starting the process of dialogue, investigating, and ultimately, if the government does not respond, if the government does not comply, it may lead to sanctions," said Sophia in 't Veld, a Dutch Liberal MEP.
"You always hope it does not get to an ultimatum, but I would very much welcome if finally the member states also speak out."
A disciplinary procedure can mean suspension of an EU state's voting rights, but such an action has never been taken.
The start of a procedure would also require two-thirds of the chamber to support the start of such a procedure, a threshold that would not be reached if enough of the EPP does not back the measure.
Orban's Fidesz party is a member of the EPP, which has so far opposed taking action against Hungary. An official from the group said that it was too early to consider such a move.
The EU Commission or the European Council could also start a disciplinary procedure but have been reluctant to do so as it could fuel anti-EU feelings at a time when the EU is grappling with Britain's departure and rising euroskepticism.
On Wednesday, the Commission said it was studying the new Hungarian law on university funding and that it would discuss it in a meeting of commissioners next week.
Also on Wednesday, Orban's Fidesz party said it would present a bill to parliament this week that requires non-governmental organizations (NGOs) with a yearly foreign income of 7.2 million forints ($25,000) to register with authorities.
"Support from unknown foreign sources could allow foreign interest groups to pursue their own interests via the influence of these (NGOs) in Hungary ... which threatens the country's political and economic interests," the bill says.
NGOs, many of whom receive grants from Soros' Open Society Foundation, often speak up on behalf of migrants, clashing with the view expressed by Orban and other eastern European leaders that migration is an existential threat.
"Like Fidesz crossed a red line yesterday with the CEU bill so they did again with the NGO's," Akos Hadhazy, a lawmaker from the opposition green-liberal LMP party, told Reuters. "Sadly the red lines are so many they look like a red carpet by now."
"This is a dirty little law," Hadhazy said. "All it does is mark the government's least favorite NGOs with a yellow star," he said, referring to Jews being required to wear stars on their clothes under the Nazi regime.
The Hungarian Civil Liberties Union said the law was "unnecessary" from a legislative perspective.
However, Fidesz has a parliamentary majority and can pass laws on its own.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 05 April 2017 18:41