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E Commission rules Lex CEU breaches int’l law

Three years after it was first introduced, Hungary’s Law of Higher Education, commonly known as “Lex CEU”, has been ruled as breaching WTO law, EU Law and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union by the European Commission.

CEUHungary's 2017 education law was ruled incompatible with EU law. Photo: Pixabay

CEU spent €200 million on a new campus in Vienna

The decision is a victory for the Central European University, backed by financier George Soros, which was forced to move most of its operations from Budapest to Vienna as a result of the legislation.

“Today’s decision means that Lex CEU is no longer applicable. CEU is free to operate its US degree programs in Budapest,” said a spokesperson for the university.

“It is also an important moral and legal victory as well as a historic victory for academic freedom in Europe”

“It is also an important moral and legal victory as well as a historic victory for academic freedom in Europe.”

The law, introduced in 2017, prevented foreign-owned universities who did not provide courses in their country of origin or whose country of origin did not have a bilateral agreement with Hungary from operating locally, and the Hungarian government has been accused of specifically targeting CEU with the law.

Hungarian concerns about foreign universities did not, however, stop the country from announcing earlier this year that it would become home to Fudan University in China’s first overseas campus.

While critics of the law consider the ruling a triumph for academic freedom, Hungarian politicians additionally have hit back at the decision.

“We find double standards unacceptable, every university in Hungary must equally observe the laws. There is no scope for creating a law that would give the Soros university an advantage over Hungarian universities,” said justice minister Judit Varga after the judgement was announced.

She added that the purpose of the legislation had been to ensure students receive their intended qualifications and that it had affected multiple foreign HEIs, for most of whom complying with the law was “not a problem”.

“At the end of the day, the appropriate functioning of higher education institutions is the pledge of trust in a country’s education system and of the reputation of its higher education, while the degree issued by it is an embodiment thereof,” she continued.

“We don’t need PO box universities.”

CEU told The PIE News that it will continue to operate in Vienna, however the Budapest campus “remains important” and will house the CEU Democracy Institute, the CEU Institute for Advanced Studies and the CEU Summer School.

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