The pressure is increasing on the Budapest regime. Already on the grill on the rule of law, the regime led by Viktor Orban suffers a defeat in the Court of Justice of the European Union over the Central European University, promoted by its enemy, billionaire George Soros whom he accuses of being pro-migrants and of conspiring to his downfall.
In April 2017, Hungary urgently adopted a law on higher education which overhauled the authorization to set up foreign universities. New demands are being made. However, Hungary has subscribed to commitments aimed at guaranteeing academic freedom, the freedom to create higher education establishments as a branch of freedom of enterprise. The European Commission notes that the new Hungarian conditions contravene its commitments and initiates a legal action.
Juncker’s treatise as a puppet by Soros
Orban saw this appeal as an attempt at political destabilization and engaged both in a political standoff with Soros and with Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of the Commission at the material time. The quarrel took an outrageous turn, Orban going so far as to claim, by posting in Hungary, that Juncker was only Soros’ puppet. The campaign created such a stir within the Christian Democrat family – to which Juncker and Orban both belong – that their party, the EPP, ended up suspending Orban’s (Fidesz) from its authorities …
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The judgment of the Court therefore reignites a war that is brewing within the EPP and that the party tries to ignore as it divides it. The European judges consider that Hungary, by subjecting the creation of a university to prior authorization, was derogating from its commitments made before the WTO. Orban argued that Soros University posed a threat to public order, but the argument was rejected by the Court, which noted the “arbitrary” nature of the political will of the Hungarian authorities. In short, we cannot prohibit the installation on national soil of a university where the teaching does not conform to the political ideas of the Hungarian government.
A reason for Orban’s disgrace to the EPP
The Court, relying on European texts, ruled that academic freedom is “associated with freedom of expression”, more specifically in the field of research, “with the freedoms of communication, research and dissemination of results. thus acquired, but also an institutional and organizational dimension finding its expression in the autonomy of these establishments. So much so that Hungary, by restricting the freedom to set up universities, infringed all its freedoms.
In October 2019, faced with the harassments of the Hungarian government, the Central European University left Hungary to settle in Vienna, Austria. A judgment of the Court of Justice of the EU is binding and Hungary must comply with it as soon as possible. This means that the law of 4 April 2017 on higher education must be amended accordingly. This will not necessarily bring the Central European University back to Budapest. So far no member state has dared to disregard a decision of the CJEU, even the Poland of the PiS has retreated before the Court. To be continued…
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