Tensions are simmering between Hungary and the Brussels club over the EU’s failed migrant policy and a new law which could force the closure of one of Budapest’s top international universities.
And now Brussels bosses will attempt to negotiate with Hungary in a bid to stem the wave of anti-EU sentiment, which is sweeping through the former Soviet satellite state.
It is fuelled by calls from the bloc to force Hungary to take in its fare share of migrants in the quota deal dreamt up at the start of the crisis.
Hungary and Poland have refused to take part in a scheme to move 160,000 people from Italy and Greece – the main ports of arrival – to elsewhere in the European Union.
Timmermans said he is open for negotiations with Hungary
Tensions are simmering between Orban and the EU
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There’s a necessity to have a political dialogue with Prime Minister Orbán … in what direction do you want to take the country?
The move prompted furious EU chiefs to threaten legal action against eurosceptic Budapest in a last-ditch attempt to rescue the failed policy.
Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans suggested talks must resume.
He said: “There’s a necessity to have a political dialogue with Prime Minister Orbán … in what direction do you want to take the country?
“There’s a difference with the Polish authorities who refuse to have a dialogue with us.”
But the EU is likely to suffer setbacks as Hungary accuses it of using the row over its education policy to force them to take in migrants.
Protestors mass outside Hungary's parliament earlier this week
The EU has hit out at Hungary after President Orban’s Fidesz party passed a new law giving the government more control over universities, which could force the closure of The Central European University, a school founded by US financier George Soros.
The decision sparked major protests, with observers saying it is part of a clampdown on free expression with Hungarian authorities seeing the global capitalist billionaire Mr Soros as the main target. But Budapest defended the decision saying the legislation was in line with other EU countries.
A government spokesman said: “Hungary is ready for debates, but we are not going to yield an inch as far as the issue of immigration is concerned.”
Demonstrators protest over the new education law
Striking a conciliatory tone, Mr Timmermans said the Commission would “review all these issues closely” and made it clear the ultimate sanction – the suspension of a nation’s voting rights – would not be used.
He added: “We have to be on a very firm legal ground before we start infringement procedures.”
Hungary reacted saying there was “no scope for the suspension of laws in Hungary” but said it was “ready to talk”.