The European Parliament has passed a resolution demanding that the Hungarian government allow the threatened Central European University to remain in Budapest.
It also called for the start of formal EU proceedings against Hungary to investigate whether it has breached union values.
Hungary must “reach an agreement with the US authorities, making it possible for Central European University to remain in Budapest as a free institution”, according to the resolution, which was passed by 393 votes to 221, with 64 abstentions, on 17 May.
Under EU rules – known as Article 7 in EU treaties – the EU’s Council can launch sanctions against a member, including the suspension of voting rights, if it violates fundamental rights.
Legislation passed by the Hungarian government in April, which CEU says could force it from the country, has been one of the triggers of action from MEPs, who see it as further evidence of a drift into authoritarianism.
After the vote, Gianni Pittella, president of the Socialists and Democrats parliamentary group, said: “We have a duty to do something about the illiberal drift imposed by [Viktor] Orbán in Hungary. The time for words and spin is over. For seven years, Orbán has been eroding the foundations of democracy in Hungary and attacking the fundamental freedoms of Hungarian citizens.”
A spokeswoman for the university welcomed the resolution, but said that the government was still refusing to negotiate properly.
In response to the resolution, Péter Szijjártó, Hungary’s minister for foreign affairs and trade, said that “European institutions are clearly unable to accept the fact that despite the application of international pressure, the government of Hungary is continuing to practise a migration policy that is exclusively aimed at ensuring the security of Hungary and the Hungarian people”, referring to the parliament’s call for a repeal of laws tightening rules against asylum seekers.
“We are now witness to a new attack on Hungary by George Soros’ network,” he said, referring to the billionaire backer of CEU who has become a frequent government target.