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PM Orbán under fire in the European Parliament

April 28th, 2017

While the Prime Minister defended his policies against sharp criticism by the European Commission and MEPs, a legal analyst wrote that the infringement procedure launched by the Commission against Hungary rests on shaky foundations.

PM Orbán addressed the European Parliament on Wednesday to defend his government against stern criticism by Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans. A few hours earlier, Timmermans announced an infringement procedure against Hungary on account of the recently passed amendments to the Higher Education Act and said that the government’s National Consultation questionnaire contained untrue allegations about the Commission’s intentions. He also criticised Hungary’s refusal to accept ’its share of refugees’. The Prime Minister said that the Higher Education Act was meant to withdraw what he called ‘unilateral privileges from a university funded by a financial speculator’ (George Soros), while immigration was a matter of national competence under the Union Treaty.

On Mandiner, Bea Bakó doubts if the infringement procedure against the Hungarian government in connection with the Higher Education Act (and by implication, Central European University) is based on solid foundations. Bakó is a staunch opponent of the law on domestic constitutional grounds, but doesn’t find the procedure chosen by the Commission well founded. The Commission argues in fact that the law violates the community rules concerning the freedom to provide services across borders. Her problem is that in this case the service provider is an American university, whose position is by definition not regulated by EU rules. An unnamed EU official she consulted on the matter told her that the rules of the World Trade Organisation provide guarantees against discrimination between domestic and international providers. Maybe, Bakó remarks, but the WTO has its own mechanism to settle complaints. In a polite hint, she finds it peculiar that the Commission claims competence over compliance with WTO rules.

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