Orbán talks soft on Lex CEU and NGO law

May 3, 2017

MTI Photo: Szecsõdi Balázs

After Prime Minister Viktor Orbán returned from a trip to Brussels last week where he faced widespread criticism of his government’s policies, he made comments to Hungarian media suggesting a softened position on controversial laws on higher education and the functioning of NGOs in Hungary.

Orbán (pictured right), through his propaganda minister Antal Rogán (pictured left), initially insisted to Hungarian media that he had “protected Hungary” during meetings in Brussels last week. Rogán said during an interview on state radio Sunday that Hungary reserved the right to hold differing opinions from those of the European Union, European Commission, and Fidesz’s own European Parliament group, the European People’s Party (EPP).

“If we must, we’ll take on legal proceedings as well,” Rogán said after the EPP insisted that the Fidesz government comply with EC requests to amend the contested legislation.

But the defiant tone softened Tuesday as a journalist from atv.hu questioned Orbán in Parliament on whether he is willing to make “meaningful amendments” to the NGO law and Lex CEU as the EC has insisted. Orbán replied that he is awaiting the opinion of Justice Minister László Trócsányi on both issues before deciding.

The statement, and referral to Trócsányi, is a departure from Orbán’s earlier stance on Lex CEU, which he repeatedly insisted complied with all Hungarian and European laws and did not specifically target any particular university.

When Atv.hu asked Trócsányi whether he would recommend that Lex CEU be amended to comply with EC requests, the Justice Minister said: “We are going to evaluate it, and I believe we’ll give an answer to the European Commission within a month.”

Trócsányi said he wouldn’t present his legal opinion to the prime minister until the ministry’s legal experts had thoroughly examined the EC’s requests, and that “right now we are still in the study period.”