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Oct 07, 2020 - Zoltán Kovács

ECJ ruling on Lex CEU: Let’s talk candidly about double standards

Hungary will not introduce legislation that would give George Soros’ university an unfair advantage compared to Hungarian universities.

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) released its ruling yesterday in the case of Hungary’s 2017 amendment of the Act on Higher Education, a bill that requires foreign universities operating in Hungary to abide by certain regulations. For example, it requires that universities and colleges from outside of the European Economic Area, universities that are awarding diplomas from their country of origin in Hungary, carry out education programs in their countries of origin as well. Additionally, it requires that the college or university’s government of origin and Hungary have a signed agreement on the operation of this institution of higher education in Hungary.

Three years ago, the modification affected two dozen institutions, including the US-based McDaniel College, which has not had a problem complying with the new rules, but you’ll only hear about one: the George Soros-founded Central European University (CEU) and its Hungarian affiliate, the Közép-európai Egyetem.

According to yesterday’s ECJ ruling, the amendment of the higher education act violates EU law and World Trade Organization rules in requiring institutions to hold international agreements about their operation and to also engage in education programs in their countries of origin. What’s more, the court called upon Hungary to refrain from double standards in relation to domestic and foreign universities.

It’s funny they should mention “double standards” because that’s precisely what the court uses against Hungary. Consider this:

In Bavaria’s higher education act, it is explicitly stated that the local higher education authority may only recognize institutions that are registered in Germany or the European Union. Exceptions to this rule, just like in the case of the Hungarian legislation, are only possible through the signing of an international agreement between Bavaria and the institution’s country of origin.

Similarly, in Spain, foreign institutions are required to carry out de facto education programs in their home countries. Even if this requirement is met, universities that aim to hand out foreign diplomas in Spain must seek authorization from the competent accreditation office.

What’s more, in Slovakia, the only foreign universities allowed to establish facilities are those registered in the European Economic Area (plus Switzerland). According to Czech legal expert Ales Rozehnal, while the Czech regulations do permit the operation of a university from outside the European Union, in its current form, Central European University could not lawfully operate in Czechia either, due to the requirement of carrying out educational activity in the home country.

I’ll save you some hours of research: You will not find a single ECJ ruling that damns the Bavarian, Spanish, Slovak or Czech higher education bills.

Why is that? Simple: None of the universities in these countries belonged to George Soros.

Photo credit: VOANEWS