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Parliament passes amendments to law on foreign universities

April 6th, 2017

As Parliament turned into law the amendments to the higher education act on Tuesday, a conservative columnist suspects that the government’s ideologically motivated attack on CEU may easily backfire. Pro-government sources describe the opposition to the law as pure hysteria.

In the parliamentary debate of the amendments to the higher education act regulating the operation of foreign universities in Hungary (see BudaPost through March 30), Zoltán Balog, Minister of Human Capacities said that the proposed amendments were meant to level the playing field for higher education institutions in Hungary. He added that the new regulations do not impact the degree programs of CEU that are accredited in Hungary. Mr Balog explained that it is in Hungary’s best interest to have diverse and high quality higher education. He also declared that Hungary should not allow international actors including what Mr Balog called ’pseudo-NGOs’ to influence the Hungarian public and ’undermine the government’.

In Heti Válasz, Bálint Ablonczy accuses the government side of a politically motivated attack against CEU. The conservative commentator thinks that in contrast with earlier contentious and confrontative policies, the amendments on foreign universities are irrational and ideological. Concerning the broader implications, Ablonczy recalls that conservative intellectuals have criticized the amendments, suggesting that the attack on CEU may easily backfire on the government.

On the pro-government side, Ripost criticises Jobbik leader Gábor Vone who voted against the amendments and caused dismay within party ranks, where many people are bitterly opposed to CEU founder George Soros. Ripost quotes unnamed sources according to which Mr Vona joined the ‘pro-Soros rainbow coalition’ at the instigation of Lajos Simicska the former Fidesz treasurer who turned into a bitter enemy of PM Orbán, two years ago.

On Pesti Srácok, Kata Jurák writes that the amendment concerns the operation of dozens of foreign universities and their courses in Hungary but none of them organised mass demonstrations,  ‘with the single exception of the one connected to George Soros’.

On 888.hu József György Horváth dismisses claims that the government intends to chase CEU from Hungary. He is convinced that the new conditions outlined in the law can be met and there is sufficient time to meet them. The question is whether those concerned intend to solve the problem or use the matter for political purposes. He fears, ‘taking into account the identity of the owners of CERU’ that they will opt for the latter.

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