Thursday

19th Jul 2018

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.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... our join as a group

"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 leaders still in search of migration plan

Select EU leaders met amid rising tension over migration, with Italy's PM, who had threatened to boycott the summit, putting forward a new plans to stop boats from leaving Libya.

Feature

EU and Turkey fight for 'lost generation'

Some 300,000 school-age Syrian children in Turkey are not enrolled in classes. Fears they may end up in sweatshops or forced to beg have triggered efforts by the EU, Unicef, and the Turkish government to keep them in school.

News in Brief

  1. Johnson slams 'dithering' May in resignation speech
  2. EU border guards to be sent to Macedonia
  3. Juncker investment plan exceeds target
  4. EU will reply 'tit for tat' to US trade measures
  5. EU Commission registers Brexit citizenship petition
  6. EU launches pre-accession probe for Albania and Macedonia
  7. Google faces multibillion euro EU fine for Android
  8. EU wants more guarantees from VW on Dieselgate fix

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  2. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  4. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  6. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  8. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  9. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  11. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future
  12. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us