Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban needs to end pressure on foreign-backed universities or risk being suspended from the center-right European People's Party (EPP), EPP leaders told him on Saturday.
"We were very clear today that we cannot accept any attack on this inside the EPP family," Manfred Weber, the party's leader in the European Parliament, told reporters after a meeting with Orban ahead of an EU summit in Brussels.
Weber declined to say whether the EPP had set Orban a deadline but said there would be "consequences" if he failed to change course. He added: "Now it's up to him to think about and to hopefully find good solutions. He has to change the behavior. That is what we expect."
Two bills, drafted by Orban's government, tighten rules on non-governmental organizations and foreign universities. The European Union on Wednesday opened a case against Hungary over the university law.
Weber stressed that Orban's engagement with the party was in his favor, in contrast to Poland's ruling party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski who also faces complaints from the EU executive that he is breaching European democratic standards:
"Viktor Orban's advantage is that he is part of the team. We can talk with him. Compared to Kaczynski in Poland for example, who does what he pleases," Weber said.
But he added: "The measures in Budapest are not acceptable. Academic freedom must be guaranteed. So after this discussion the ball is in his court. If he reacts properly, then he is a team player. If not, there will be consequences."