"Lex CEU": new ECJ ruling against Hungary

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has ruled that the higher education law adopted in Hungary in 2017 violates fundamental EU rights such as academic freedom. The law imposed conditions on foreign universities which de facto only the Central European University (CEU) founded by US billionaire George Soros failed to fulfill. As a result, the university was forced to move most of its operations to Vienna. Observers are at odds over the impact of the ruling.

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Financial Times (GB) /

No more pretending now

This is a landmark ruling in many respects, the rector of the Central European University Michael Ignatieff comments in the Financial Times:

“The judgment comes late - the university has already been forced to move most of its teaching to Vienna - but it is a landmark ruling that is bound to dissuade other European regimes from similar attacks on free institutions. It is also a watershed moment in Europe's fierce debate about whether to tie the €1.7tn recovery package to the rule of law. Now EU governments cannot keep pretending that Hungary's relation to the rule of law is unclear. Its highest court has declared it in breach of fundamental rights.”

Der Standard (AT) /

EU funding its own destruction

The ECJ ruling is the fourth to be handed down against Hungary this year, Hungary correspondent Gregor Mayer points out in Der Standard:

“Orbán couldn't care less. As well-founded as they may be, the judgments are usually handed down too late. ... By disregarding the rule of law, Orbán is driving a wedge into the EU and undermining its values. Together with like-minded leaders in other countries, he could even split it up. That said, with its generous grants the EU itself is financing Orbán's system. The money from Brussels gives him the leeway he needs to fatten up his oligarchs with inflated public contracts. Then these same oligarchs make sure the media and voters give him their support. Thanks to this closed cycle, Orbán is almost impossible to vote out of office. It's high time the EU turned off his money supply. Otherwise it will be financing its own destruction.”