Tuesday

17th Sep 2019

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.

... or 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.

News in Brief

  1. German top lawmaker scolds Bettel over Johnson snub
  2. Greens decide on Tuesday on talks on Five Star joining
  3. Belgian mayors give Juncker a tongue-lashing
  4. Von der Leyen defends 'way of life' slogan
  5. Court hears case on UK's pre-Brexit parliament shutdown
  6. Nato rings alarm on Gulf 'escalation'
  7. Luxembourg mockery of British leader sparks 'anger'
  8. Majority of Belgians against excluding Vlaams Belang

Stalling on VAT reform costing billions, says Commission

German media outlet Correctiv, along with other newsrooms, have revealed how criminals annually cheat EU states out of billions in VAT fraud. The EU Commission says solutions exist - but member states refuse to budge on tax unanimity.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  2. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  6. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  8. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  9. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  10. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  11. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat

Latest News

  1. Defending the 'European way of life' name splits MEPs
  2. Hungary claims EU 'witch-hunt' over rule of law hearing
  3. Trumpworld In Europe
  4. How EU firms and banks help fund Amazon fires
  5. Amazon fires mean EP must rethink Mercosur trade deal
  6. EU must give full support to Ukraine to dissuade Kremlin
  7. EU divided on how to protect rule of law
  8. Nordic region to become world's most sustainable and integrated

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us