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Correction: Europe-Hungary story

Posted April 13

— In a story April 12 about the European Union launching a probe of Hungary's education law, The Associated Press erroneously reported the location of a university founded by billionaire George Soros. They university is in Budapest, not Bucharest.

A corrected version of the story is below:

EU launches probe of Hungarian education law

The European Union's executive arm questioned Hungary's commitment to the bloc's fundamental values as it launched an investigation of a new law which is widely seen in Europe as targeting a Budapest university founded by billionaire George Soros

By RAF CASERT and PABLO GORONDI

Associated Press

The European Union's executive arm questioned Hungary's commitment to the bloc's fundamental values Wednesday as it launched an investigation of a new law which is widely seen in Europe as targeting a Budapest university founded by billionaire George Soros.

EU Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans said the investigation of Hungary's amended higher education law would be completed "as soon as possible" and that the commission would consider possible next steps by the end of April.

The probe will look into whether the new law conflicts with EU rules and could apply to other European universities, Timmermans said. It would also examine whether it is compatible with EU principles on the free movement of services and respects the bloc's rules governing the admission of researchers from outside Europe.

The action illustrates the EU's growing frustration with the seven-year rule of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who increasingly has pursued policies that fly in the face of EU ideals.

"Where do you want to be in this European Union?" asked Timmermans, confounded by Orban's signature at a summit two weeks ago on a pledge to work for a united EU and promotion since then of a national voter questionnaire with the motto "Let's Stop Brussels."

"What the heck is going on?" Timmermans asked.

In response, Hungary's government said the EU Commission was motivated by Hungary's anti-migrant positions, including its court challenge to an EU plan to resettle asylum-seekers among the 28 members of the bloc.

Hungary has built fences on its southern borders to stop the flow of migrants and new rules allow all asylum-seekers older than 14 to be held in border container camps until their asylum petitions are decided.

"Mr. Timmermans' every word is proof that Hungary is again under attack regarding migration," government spokesman Zoltan Kovacs told reporters.

"We are ready for negotiations, but regarding migration, Hungary won't make changes to its positions," Kovacs said.

Orban has long planned to transform Hungary into an "illiberal state" where majority rule trumps minority rights and national policies trump adherence to EU standards in some areas. The plight of the Soros-founded Central European University has come to crystalize the debate.

Orban views the New York-based Soros as a political antithesis pushing globalism contrary to Hungary's cherished local values. The Hungarian leader also accuses Soros of trying to illegitimately influence his government and Hungary's politics through support of non-governmental organizations such as Transparency International.

The law sets new conditions for foreign universities in Hungary, some of which seem aimed specifically at CEU. It requires universities in Hungary also to have a campus in their home countries. While CEU is accredited in Hungary and in New York state, it does not have a U.S. campus.

"Central European University has been a pearl in the crown of Central Europe in forming a new generation of European leaders that see East and West as geographical denominations, not moral or political denominations," Timmermans said.

Timmermans said there also were "serious doubts" on the Commission about the compatibility of Hungary's recently tightened asylum laws with EU norms. He also mentioned the discrimination of Roma children in education and the protection of pregnant working women as areas where Hungary had failed to respond to EU concerns.

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Gorondi reported from Budapest. Lorne Cook contributed from Brussels.

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