“These are sad and alarming days for Europe when a university sees its freedom hampered in a way that it cannot find itself home anymore in a Member State”, declares Leonie Martin, Vice-President of Young European Federalists (JEF) Europe.
“We acknowledge that the infringement procedure the European Commission has launched on the Hungarian Higher Education Law takes time - but we are appalled by the way European politicians have used this as an excuse to not act; instead they have ignored their political power to change the situation impacting staff and students. Even if the European Court of Justice decides that the act is illegal, the consequences of the law will stay. You cannot undo a move, especially into another country, that easily”, Martin continues. “The ban of gender studies at ELTE, the privatisation plans for Corvinus University - the attacks on academic freedom in Hungary come from multiple sides, seemingly individually targeted to each university. We, as European citizens, cannot and we will not accept this development inside the European Union. In this regard, the solidarity expressed in the common protests of the students in Budapest’s universities are a light of hope in a country where the government disseminates extreme populism and false claims to serve its divisive agenda.”
JEF Europe is particularly disappointed by the behaviour of Manfred Weber, Chairman of the European People’s Party (EPP) and its leading candidate for the upcoming European elections. Weber famously stated that the CEU moving out of Hungary would constitute a red line for him. “It might be too late for the CEU but we hope Weber finds political courage to address how European funding is misused in an EPP-governed Member State, how former Macedonian Prime Minister Gruevski is able to seek refuge in Hungary after having been convicted by his country while Fidesz, Orbáns political party, canl can be a member of the EPP.”
Martin concludes, “More is to be done to prevent developments like this: currently, risks to rule of law in the EU are only addressed when individuals use their willpower to draw attention to these situations to set the agenda accordingly. Why is it that countries are fully assessed whether they comply to the European values, enshrined in the so-called Copenhagen criteria, when they want to become a Member State but once they join the club, only the Art. 7 procedure, a rather drastic procedure, is given as a legal instrument for the protection of European values? It is high time for the European Commission to propose an annual review mechanism for all Member States!”. As an advocate for the introduction of the ‘European Review Mechanism on Democracy, Rule of Law and Fundamental Rights’, JEF Europe applauds the European Parliament for having recently adopted a resolution to remind the Commission of this matter.
On the Central European University
The Central European University (CEU) is a university that delivers high-quality content in the Central-Eastern European region and offers high-reputation educational courses to thousands of students. This knowledge institution has proven to be of great value for Hungarian academic life as it has acquired an international reputation. Not only does it allow many students from the Visegrád countries to access higher education thanks to a dedicated scholarship programme, but it also plays an important role in including Central and Eastern European perspectives in the pan-European discourse. Throughout the years, it has contributed to the strengthening of democratic foundations of societies within the new Member States. The CEU has been the home to many JEF members.
Following last year’s adoption of the Higher Education Law, the so-called “Lex CEU” which had caused the European Commission to start an infringement procedure against the Hungarian government, the Central European University had to change some of its operations. The last box to be ticked was to ratify an agreement between the State of New York and the Hungarian government. As the Hungarian government has failed to react until December 1, the deadline set for planning reasons by the CEU will move its operations to Vienna, Austria. Attention should also be drawn to the fact that courses given by the CEU to refugees had to be stopped earlier this year due to the so-called “Stop Soros” law, which imposes a 25% tax on organisations supporting migration.
More information on JEF Europe
The Young European Federalists (JEF) Europe is a non-partisan youth NGO with over 13.000 members active in more than 35 countries. Founded in 1972, the organisation strives towards a federal Europe based on the principles of democracy, subsidiarity and rule of law. The “Democracy under Pressure” campaign which organises a pan-European action week but also the current Annual Work plan on shrinking civic space funded by the European Youth Foundation engages JEFers Europe wide with the importance of rule of law. JEF Europe has been actively supporting #istandwithCEU and has advocated for the adoption of the Sargentini-Report.
What is the so-called Art. 7 procedure?
The Article 7 TEU procedure allows for EU institutions to flag a clear risk of a serious breach (Art. 7(1) TEU) and of the existence of a serious and persistent breach of EU values (Art. 7(2) TEU). In case the latter has been determined, the Council, meaning the EU Member States, may decide to suspend certain rights of the Member State, e.g. voting rights in the Council.
Recent Statements by JEF Europe on this topic
September 12, 2018 Sargentini report: Rule of law reaffirmed as a fundamental value among European political parties
April 28, 2018 European Youth Forum - Urgent Resolution on Shrinking Civic Space in Hungary (initiated by JEF Europe)
April 10, 2018 JEF Europe concerned with Fidesz-KDNP win in Hungary
May 9, 2017 Commission starts infringement procedure on Hungary: JEF calls for launch of Art. 7 procedure
April 4, 2017 JEF Europe and AEGEE Europe call upon the European Commission and theEuropean Council to take action towards the Hungarian attacks on the CEU
Autumn 2016 JEF Europe Resolution adopted at the Federal Committee Meeting in Cologne Regarding the protection of the Rule of Law in the European Union
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