“Hungary is a democratic country which enjoys freedom of speech and freedom of assembly, so everyone can protest if they respect the law and are not aggressive,” said Fidesz vice-president and parliamentary group leader Lajos Kósa in an appearance on state-run television channel M1 Monday morning.
Kosa’s remarks come on the heels of a protest Sunday evening, where several thousand protesters demanded that the Hungarian government rescind legislation that would effectively close the Central European University.
According to Kósa, “everyone can go ahead and express their dissatisfaction with various issues, even if [their position] appears to be completely unintelligible. No one wants to close CEU.”
Kósa went on to say that slogans, such as “Save CEU” and “Let’s not close CEU”, are meaningless as it is no one’s interest to close the renowned Hungarian university.
“People can also protest for the sky to be blue. They can go outside and see the sky is blue, so there is no problem,” the Fidesz VP reasoned.
Kósa’s appearance on state-run television is emblematic of attempts by Hungary’s ruling Fidesz party to make it seem as though recent changes to the Law on Higher Education do not single out the university founded and endowed by George Soros in Budapest a quarter century ago. The adoption of the legislation prompted several weeks of popular protest in Hungary and internationally.
The Fidesz VP claimed on M1 that the most recent protest was organized and carried out by “Soros’ agents.”
Despite Fidesz’s attempts to downplay the significance of Lex CEU, not everyone is buying it.
“For the first time in Europe since World War II, a university will have been closed for political reasons,” Princeton University Professor of Politics Jan-Werner Müller recently wrote in The New York Review of Books.
Last week, the European Parliament adopted a resolution calling on the Hungarian government ensure that the Central European University could continue to operate in Hungary as an independent higher education institution.
The EP’s resolution came only weeks after the European Commission announced it would formally launch an infringement procedure against the government because the law effectively closing the CEU in Hungary violates EU laws.