Lex CEU sparks conflict in European Parliament

April 6, 2017

MTI Fotó: Balogh Zoltán

A debate has erupted within the European Parliament after the Hungarian delegation to the European People’s Party (EPP), of which ruling party Fidesz is a member, wrote a scathing email to their EPP colleagues Wednesday.

The email, first reported on by Politico, claimed that European critics of Hungary’s recently passed law on higher education had been  “gravely mislead (sic) by the propaganda and private agenda of the American billionaire Soros” and were fighting with a “virtual reality.” The Hungarian delegation compared Central European University, the Soros-founded institution in Budapest which stands to be hurt the most by the new law, to “the world of George Orwell’s Animal Farm,” where “there are the equals and there are some more equals (sic) than others.”

The email reportedly angered members of the EPP, including Luxembourgish MEP Frank Engel who fired back at the Hungarian delegation and urged them to leave the EPP and the EU altogether.

“Forget the crap,” Engel wrote. “We know what is happening, and why. Why don’t you leave both the EPP and the EU on your own terms? … You’re practically and factually out anyway. So go. Please go.”

German leader of the EPP in Parliament Manfred Weber, falling short of demanding Hungary leave the EU, expressed his reservations about the controversial higher education law. Weber tweeted on Wednesday: “EU needs an independent serious evaluation rather than party political debates. Freedom of thinking, research and speech are essential for our European identity. EPP group will defend this at any cost.”

The higher education law, commonly called Lex CEU, was passed in an emergency procedure on Tuesday in the Hungarian National Assembly, prompting several protests and rousing international solidarity from around the world as universities, civil organizations and foreign governments raised concerns that the law threatened academic freedom in Hungary. The law must now be signed by President János Áder, which most observers regard as a foregone conclusion.