Hungary’s democratic opposition reacts to passage of Lex CEU

April 5, 2017

Socialist MP Ágnes Kunhalmi addresses protesters at Parliament after passage of Lex CEU
                                                                                     MTI Fotó: Balogh Zoltán

Hungary’s democratic opposition was unanimous in its condemnation of yesterday’s passage by the Hungarian parliament of the so-called Lex CEU – a modification to the law on higher education that would effectively force Central European University in Budapest to close its doors. Here are some of the statements released by the parties.

Hungarian Socialist Party (MSZP)

Following  yesterday’s vote, the Hungarian Socialist Party posted the following to its official website.

The MSZP parliamentary delegation stood united in support of CEU and asked Hungarian President János Áder not to sign the modification to the national law on higher education.

At a press conference held Tuesday afternoon, MSZP MP Bertalan Tóth called Lex CEU “a petty attack” that was “not about professional questions but about the elimination of academic freedom”, and called it “unacceptable.”

Politics Can Be Different (LMP)

Liberal/Green opposition party posted the following terse statement to its website:

Today the Fidesz majority in the National Assembly passed the bill obstructing CEU, which, in LMP’s opinion, is not only unacceptable and harmful but a violation of the constitution. For this reason the party is turning to the Constitutional Court and asks the other opposition parties to support its petition.

Democratic Coalition (DK)

At a press conference held after the vote, independent MP and DK spokesperson Ágnes Vadai said passage of the law was a “clear and unmistakable attack on education, science and the future of Hungarian youth.”

She announced that DK would attempt to block the closure of CEU by initiating a referendum, and the party hoped other parties and NGOs would join the initiative.

She said DK’s four independent MPs stayed away from the vote.

Együtt (Together)

Együtt politician Balázs Berkecz reacted to the bill’s passage by announcing that his party would launch an internet petition to prevent President Áder from signing the modification to the law.

Berkecz said that with the passage of Lex CEU, the Fidesz-controlled parliament had “crossed a new border on the inglorious road towards a Putin state,” calling the law “unacceptable and expressly harmful.” He said it was especially outrageous that the modification took place as part of an accelerated procedure without substantive debate.

“Hungary’s constitution ensures the freedom of scientific research and artistic creation” as well as “academic freedom” in the interest of obtaining the highest level of knowledge possible, Berkecz said. He said the modification to the 2011 law violated not only the spirit of the constitution but went against every European democratic value as well. He said he would personally deliver the petition to Áder on Wednesday, April 5th at 12:30.

The petition can be reached here.

Momentum

In an official statement, the Momentum Movement said the Lex CEU was not only about the Soros-founded university, but “about the unprincipled exercise of power characteristic of Fidesz.” Momentum observed that “despotic power” had caused “a university and many thousands of students, teachers and parents to feel uncertain,” while under the government of Viktor Orbán “people have become political playthings” and “Fidesz is building a system of fear in which it is possible to make people’s lives impossible from one day to the next.

“Momentum believes CEU is not only an institution, but a symbol of quality, international recognition, and openness,” the statement reads. “Free thinking people in the 21st century need research and development, and a higher education strategy that respects the autonomy of universities. We need to join the network of the highest quality European universities, not cut ourselves off from them, just as Europe cannot cut itself off from the world.

“The former KGB Putin closed the European University in Saint Petersburg. Independent universities train free thought which poses a threat to the power of every autocrat. Orbán is working from the Russian recipe: first render impossible the universities, and then the civil sphere.

“If the Hungarian Conference of Rectors proves incapable of performing its task of protecting its interests, then it should dissolve itself. In a normal county, the possibility of such a law being adopted would not come up.  If the President of the Republic sends the law to the Constitutional Court, it will strike it down because it is discriminatory.”

Although extreme-right Jobbik opposed the bill, as of the writing of this article it had not issued a statement subsequent to the bill’s adoption by parliament.