Thursday

25th May 2017

EU commissioner tells Hungarians to resist Orban

  • Jourova: "We have also concerns regarding the judiciary in Hungary, its independence." (Photo: EC - Audiovisual Service)

The Hungarian government's efforts to shut down a university in Budapest drew a sharp rebuke from the EU's commissioner for justice.

European justice commissioner Vera Jourova on Monday (10 April) called on civil society to stand up to prime minister Viktor Orban's right-wing government and his broader efforts to create an illiberal democracy.

"I think it is good that people are visible and vocal about what is happening at the Central European University," she told reporters in Brussels.

"The people there are courageous, open, and visible and this is what the commission will also encourage."

But she noted that the commission imposing "administrative steps or infringements or other measures" against the government is unlikely to result in any real change.

"I can tell you my fear in Hungary is that there are efforts to decrease the power and the influence of the civil society as such and decrease the political pluralism, which is my opinion," she said.

Jourova's comments come ahead of a meeting of EU commissioners later this week, which will formulate an official position of the events unfolding in Budapest.

A reported 70,000 people had gathered in the capital city over the weekend to protest a new Hungarian law that would see the closure of a university funded by Hungarian-American billionaire George Soros.

The massive turnout has been billed as one of the largest since Orban took power. Among them were thousands of students who chanted anti-Orban slogans.

Hungarian authorities insist the law is part of a larger and better regulation drive, but the move is widely seen as a government-led clamp down on civil society and opposition in general.

The bill had been passed in parliament by Orban's right-wing Fidesz party and seeks to impose restrictions that would force the university to shut down.

The amendment to Hungary's National Higher Education Act 2011 would require the Central European University to set up a campus in the United States, given that it is accredited in both countries.

Jourova also reserved comments for Poland due to its far-reaching reforms which run the risk of undermining the rule of law.

Both Hungary and Poland are seen as problematic for the EU, at a time when the Union aims to consolidate its stated values.

But issues over migration, a weakening of the judiciary, and other structural and institutional reforms, have cast a long shadow over the governments in Budapest and Warsaw.

"We see very worrying trends in these countries," Jourova said.

An EU-wide assessment of national justice systems presented by the EU commission, also on Monday, ranked the perceived independence of courts and judges in Poland and Hungary as relatively low when compared to other EU states.

Anti-Soros university bill sparks protest in Budapest

Thousands gathered around the Central European University on Tuesday to protest against a legislative bill that targets it, while the US embassy and the German president expressed their support for the institution.

Analysis

Orban set to face down EU threats

The European Commission and Parliament are to debate Hungary's slide into illiberal democracy. But the bloc continues to think that Hungarian leader Viktor Orban is not a systemic threat.

Opinion

Orban’s unpatriotic attack on CEU

Hungary's prime minister, Viktor Orban, wants to see the closure of Central European University with recent legislative changes. But his actions are truly difficult to justify when thinking as a patriot.

Analysis

Hungary's university protests, a path for change?

Hungary has seen mass protests over the last weeks in support of the Budapest-based Central European University, targeted by prime minister Orban's latest legislation. But it is unclear how the new street momentum will be transformed into political power.

EU visa waiver looms for Russia-annexed Crimeans

Visa liberalisation for Ukrainians entering the EU will also apply to inhabitants of the peninsula taken over by Moscow in 2014. But the issue poses administrative as well as political problems.

News in Brief

  1. Pressure grows on climate impact of EU timber harvesting
  2. US goes after Fiat Chrysler over emissions cheat
  3. Munich police break up Europe-wide burglar clan
  4. Report: VW threatened with €19.7 billion French fine
  5. Turkey begins mass trial of suspected coup leaders
  6. Merkel's CDU consolidates lead in polls
  7. France to host Russian president
  8. Switzerland votes against nuclear power

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFChild Alert on Myanmar: Fruits of Rapid Development yet to Reach Remote Regions
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersBecome an Explorer - 'Traces of Nordic' Seeking Storytellers Around the World
  3. Malta EU 2017Closer Cooperation and Reinforced Solidarity to Ensure Security of Gas Supply
  4. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceHigh-Intensity Interval Training Is Therapeutic Option for Type 2 Diabetes
  5. Dialogue Platform"The West Must Help Turkey Return to a Democratic Path" a Call by Fethullah Gulen
  6. ILGA-EuropeRainbow Europe 2017 Is Live - Which Countries Are Leading on LGBTI Equality?
  7. Centre Maurits CoppietersWhen You Invest in a Refugee Woman You Help the Whole Community
  8. Eurogroup for AnimalsECJ Ruling: Member States Given No Say on Wildlife Protection In Trade
  9. European Heart NetworkCall for Urgent Adoption of EU-Wide Nutrient Profiles for Nutrition & Health Claims
  10. Counter BalanceInvestment Plan for Europe More Climate Friendly but European Parliament Shows Little Ambition
  11. Mission of China to the EUPresident Xi: China's Belt and Road Initiative Benefits People Around the World
  12. Malta EU 2017EU Strengthens Control of the Acquisition and Possession of Firearms

Latest News

  1. Openness over Brexit is 'political play', says EU ombudsman
  2. Le Pen's EU group in fresh spending scandal
  3. New EU right to data portability to cause headaches
  4. Cyber threats are inevitable, paralyzing impact is not
  5. Transparency complaints keep EU Ombudsman busy
  6. EU sets out criteria for relocating UK agencies
  7. EU states back bill against online hate speech
  8. Dutch coalition talks collapse again