Hungary's university reform is unlawful, EU top court says

FILE PHOTO: A view inside the Central European University in Budapest, Hungary, November 14, 2018. REUTERS/Bernadett Szabo

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Union’s top court said on Tuesday that Hungary’s reform of higher education rules, which forced a university founded by George Soros to move most of its activities out of the country, was in breach of EU law.

The ruling follows a complaint from the European Commission and is one of many issues in which the EU has clashed with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s hardline stance on migration and minorities, as well as moves to increase state control of the courts, media and NGOs.

Under the reform, passed in 2017, foreign-registered universities can no longer operate in Hungary unless they also provide courses in their home countries, a provision that the European Court of Justice said on Tuesday was against EU law.

“The conditions introduced by Hungary to enable foreign higher education institutions to carry out their activities in its territory are incompatible with EU law,” the court said.

Central European University transferred the bulk of its courses out of Hungary after a long legal battle between Hungarian-born Soros, who promotes liberal causes through his charities, and the government of Orban.

The EU court also said the requirement introduced by the reform that non-EU universities could operate in Hungary only if their home country had a bilateral treaty with Hungary was in breach of the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights which protects academic freedom and the freedom to conduct a business.

It was also against commitments made by Hungary as a member of the World Trade Organisation, the EU Court said.

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