European justice authorizes “Soros University” to relocate to Budapest

2020 is definitely a difficult year for Viktor Orban in his dealings with European justice. After having censored, in May, its migration policy consisting of locking up all asylum seekers and, in June, its reform aimed at combating NGOs financed from abroad, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) ruled on Tuesday, October 6, that the Hungarian law intended to ban the activities of the Central European University (CEU) in Budapest is contrary to European law. Passed in 2017, this law forced this university, founded and funded by Hungarian-born American billionaire George Soros, to move much of its activities to Vienna, Austria.

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Since 2015, Mr. Soros has been the favorite target of the Hungarian nationalist prime minister, although Mr. Orban also benefited from his funding when he was a student in the late 1980s. The Hungarian government notably passed a law obliging them foreign universities active in its territory to have a real activity in their country of origin and to conclude an official agreement with the government. Founded in 1991 to train elites across the post-Soviet space by awarding them degrees in American law, CEU was the only foreign university unable to comply with this law, renamed “Lex CEU” for this reason. [Loi CEU]. It trained 1,300 students in the heart of the Hungarian capital.

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This reform had triggered demonstrations in Budapest and strong European protests, without pushing Mr. Orban back. In 2018, the European Commission decided to seize the Luxembourg Court, in part using a roundabout method, as it has become accustomed to doing, for lack of sufficient legal arsenal in European law to properly sanction infringements. rule of law which are increasing in central Europe. The Commission had notably criticized Hungary for breaking the free trade rules of the World Trade Organization (WTO) by imposing these restrictions.

“We can no longer return to Hungary”

The CJEU ruled entirely in favor of the Commission, considering that Hungary “Presented no arguments capable of establishing (…) a genuine and sufficiently serious threat ” justifying the restriction of CEU activities, nor “No concrete element” to demonstrate how the requirement to have a seat in one’s country of origin, the United States, “Would be necessary in order to prevent deceptive practices”, so many arguments that had been put forward by Budapest. Since then, “Endanger the academic activity of foreign higher education institutions” would be contrary to the Charter of European Fundamental Rights which guarantees academic freedom, judged the judges of Luxembourg.

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