Hungarian president rubber stamps legislation targeting CEU

By bne IntelliNews April 10, 2017

Hungarian President Janos Ader signed the highly contentious legal amendment that has become knows as the “lex CEU” on April 10.

The amendment to Hungary’s higher education law has been widely interpreted as an attempt by Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s government to close Central European University (CEU), which is sponsored by George Soros. The issue has thrust Budapest back into international headlines, with critics at the very highest levels across the world claiming Orban continues to damage democracy.

The prospect of Hungary losing its top ranking university in an ideological war with Orban brought also around 80,000 protesters out onto Budapest’s streets on April 9. The event was the largest anti-Orban demonstration ever, and possible the biggest non-nationalist protest in Hungary since the 1989 change of regime. 

However, Ader - a close confidante of the PM - was unnmoved. The president, who was reappointed by the ruling Fidesz party earlier this year, said: “I examined the constitutionality of the bill in the time available to me and found it to be in compliance with international treaties. The amendment does not violate the constitution’s article ten on the freedom of learning and teaching."

“The two new laws impose conditions on the activities of foreign higher education institutions in Hungary: they do not violate the constitutional rule of international treaties, nor do they conflict with EU directives,” Ader added.

CEU has accused the government, which further tightened the amendment the day before it was passed by parliament on April 4, of rendering its freedom to run academic programmes in Hungary impossible.

The law has even caused major ructions in the European Peoples Party, the conservative European parliamentary bloc to which Orban's Fidesz party belongs. That is despite the grouping having stayed silent on many of the democratic intrusions since Orban returned to power in 2010. 

Ader insisted that he is “convinced that with a common and mutual good will" any issues surrounding lex CEU "can be solved within the time limits provided for by law”. The work of foreign universities in Hungary will “continue seamlessly,” he also predicted.

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