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EU strikes down Hungary university reform, Soros wants EU to set example

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By Francesco Guarascio and Marton Dunai

BRUSSELS/BUDAPEST (Reuters) – The European Union’s top court said on Tuesday that Hungary breached EU law with its reform of higher education rules, which forced a university founded by George Soros to move most of its activities out of the country.

The ruling follows a complaint from the European Commission and is one of many issues in which the EU has clashed with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, accused in Brussels of a backslide on civil liberties, corruption and the rule of law.

Hungary’s justice minister said Budapest would implement the European Court of Justice ruling but reiterated that all schools must meet equal rules, and “on this the Hungarian government finds double standards to be unacceptable.”

“There is no need for mailbox universities,” she said.

Under the reform, passed in 2017, foreign universities in Hungary must also provide courses in their home countries, a provision that singled out CEU, which was exclusively based in Budapest. The ECJ said that was against EU law.

“The conditions introduced by Hungary to enable foreign higher education institutions to carry out their activities in its territory are incompatible with EU law,” the court said.

Central European University transferred the bulk of its courses out of Hungary to Vienna after a long legal battle between Hungarian-born Soros, who promotes liberal causes through his charities, and the government of Orban.

Soros said in a statement that the ruling came too late for Central European University to return to Budapest, where academic freedom remains on the wane due to government interference.

“The Hungarian government continues to trample EU law, with the latest victim being the world-renowned University of Theatre and Arts (SZFE)”, he added, referring to SZFE’s struggle against a perceived government crackdown.

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Soros urged the EU to

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EU court rules against Hungary’s Orban over Soros university

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BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union’s highest court ruled Tuesday that changes by Hungary to its law on higher education which effectively forced a university founded by George Soros to leave the country were not in line with EU law.



Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban arrives for an EU summit at the European Council building in Brussels, Friday, Oct. 2, 2020. European Union leaders will be assessing relations with China during their final day of a summit meeting which already saw bruising talks on foreign affairs issues. (AP Photo/Olivier Matthys, Pool)


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Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban arrives for an EU summit at the European Council building in Brussels, Friday, Oct. 2, 2020. European Union leaders will be assessing relations with China during their final day of a summit meeting which already saw bruising talks on foreign affairs issues. (AP Photo/Olivier Matthys, Pool)

The European Court of Justice ruled against Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s governing, saying in the ruling that “the conditions introduced by Hungary to enable foreign higher education institutions to carry out their activities in its territory are incompatible with EU law.”

Among the changes, Hungary tied the operation of foreign universities in Hungary to a bilateral agreement between the Hungarian government and the universities’ country of origin. Foreign universities were also compelled to carry out educational activities in their home countries.

The court ruled that by imposing such conditions, “Hungary has failed to comply with the commitments” under the framework of the World Trade Organisation and acted in contravention of the provisions of the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights.

At the heart of the conflict is the fate of Central European University, established in New York state by Soros, a Hungarian-American financier. Under pressure from Orban, it had to relocate most of its main activities to Vienna from Budapest, where it had been operating since the early 1990s.

Orban has been a vocal critic of Soros for years, arguing that the billionaire philanthropist is intent on undermining European values with his liberal views on migration, claims Soros has denied. Orban’s ideological aim of creating