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Hungary’s President János Áder signs Lex CEU sparking protests

Hungary's President János Áder has signed legislation amending the Higher Education Acton on Monday, just before his deadline. The new law is effectively targeting Central European University (CEU), founded in 1991 by George Soros, who is basically public enemy number one for Prime Minister Viktor Orbán for his liberal approach, especially regarding Europe's migration crisis and his funding of non-governmental organisations, which are the latest targets of the right-wing government. CEU said it will "immediately seek all available legal remedies." Ader said the new law is not unconstitutional. Late on Monday hundreds of protesters walked to the state radio office, in a spontaneous rally, and put up a European Union flag on the building, according to a video posted on local website Index. Protesters faced a line of police and Index said police used paprika spray on them. The protest ended about 0020 GMT on Tuesday.

eu flag

Ader, a long-time Orban ally re-elected last month to a second term with support from the ruling party, signed the law amending the rules for foreign universities, his office said. In doing so, he rejected the options of sending it back to parliament for reconsideration or asking for a court assessment, as he saw no conflict with the constitution or international treaties.
"In the last days, different constitutional concerns have come up regarding the amendment to the [higher education] law. In the time available to me I have examined the constitutionality of the law and its compliance with international agreements. I have determined that the amendment does not infringe on the right to study and to teach as recorded in article X of the Fundamental Law. It also does not infringe on the provision of the Fundamental Law which ensures the autonomy of higher education institutions concerning the content and methods of research and teaching."
Áder acknowledged that "the fast — though appropriate for the provisions of the house rules — acceptance and imposition of the conditions of the two new laws provoked resentment in many people," and he urged the government to "immediately begin negotiations with the involved parties in the interests of the implementation of the new legal provisions."
The legislation has fueled controversy over Central European University, which was founded by Hungarian-born investor and philanthropist George Soros in 1991 to train a new generation of democratic leaders after communism. CEU says the news rules are aimed at shutting it down. While the government denies that, Orban regularly blames Soros, who funds groups that seek to promote human rights and government transparency, for trying to undermine him. The U.S. and Germany have condemned the law and called on Hungary to reconsider.

Hundreds gathered on Monday night outside Ader's office in Buda castle chanting "We're ashamed of you" shortly after he published his statement, according to live footage by Index news website.

Daily online index.hu reports that Hungary's democratic opposition leaders had the following to say about János Áder's decision to sign the modification to the law on higher education, aka "lex CEU," that would force Central European University to close its doors later this year.

"János Áder has proven that he is unsuitable to be president of the republic."  In a statement issued Monday evening, MSZP claimed that Áder is neither capable of recognizing national interests nor of expressing national unity. MSZP warned that the government that is capable of closing CEU today is capable of closing any institution tomorrow.

MSZP candidate for prime minister, Szeged mayor László Botka, promised that if his party comes to power it will repeal the law.

"You know 'Mr. President' that you are also a rascal," posted DK  chairman Ferenc Gyurcsány to his Facebook page, calling Áder a former democrat who has become as craven a politician as his former political opponents.

"Even Áder's grandchildren will carry the shame of their grandfather killing a university," announced LMP co-chair Ákos Hadházy.

"János Áder has not rejected his past and taken a dishonest, spineless decision worthy of a Fidesz politician," posted the Dialogue for Hungary to its Facebook page, adding that it intends to turn to the Constitutional Court and later the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg because the destruction of CEU goes against the freedom of universities, educational freedom, and freedom of thought.

"Áder is a cadre (a politically controlled appointment to an institution in order to circumvent the state and bring control to the party-ed.) who has become unworthy of his office." The small opposition party led by anti-corruption crusader Péter Juhász believes that with the act of signing the bill into law, Áder has proven that he is incapable of not imposing Fidesz's point of view on important constitutional issues. From this time forward, Együtt does not consider Áder to be the legitimate president of the republic, and encourages the other opposition parties to adopt a similar position.

"The president of the republic embodies national unity in the following manner: when 80,000 demonstrated against a stupid legal modification that is clearly tailor-made for one entity, but in the end is harmful to all of society, János Áder hides behind laws," wrote Momentum, the recently founded opposition party, adding that Áder considers his position more important than "the voices and opinions of 80,000 people."

A new round of protests is planned for Wednesday at Budapest's Hősök Tere (Heroes' Square). The declared theme of the demonstration is opposition to a bill recently submitted by Fidesz which would, among other things, require all NGOs which receive more than HUF 7.2 million (USD 25,000) annually from foreign sources to register themselves with the government as "foreign funded organizations." Critics see the bill as an attempt to clamp down on civil society. CEU sympathizers are sure to join demonstrators against the NGO bill at Wednesday's protest.
Source: index.hu; Bloomberg; Reuters

Last Updated on Tuesday, 11 April 2017 14:42

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