CEU welcomes legal opinion on uni law

Issues

The Central European University (CEU) says that it welcomes the unequivocal opinion of the Advocate General of the European Court of Justice in the matter of Lex CEU, a legislation requiring foreign colleges and universities in Hungary to operate on the basis of an intergovernmental agreement and to have a campus in the country in which they are based.

Advocate General Kokott said that Lex CEU violates European law. In her opinion, the legislation “cannot be justified”, as it is an exercise of “arbitrary discrimination” and imposes a “disproportionate restriction” on academic freedom. She added that it constitutes a “discriminatory and disproportionate” infringement of the freedom to found and operate educational establishments.

The Hungarian government’s requirement that CEU can only operate on the basis of an international treaty between Hungary and its state of origin, the Advocate General maintains, is "contrary to the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union".

CEU says that the opinion affirms the case that the university has been making since the legislation was passed in April 2017. The university now awaits the final judgment of the Court itself, which is expected in the fall.

If the court accepts the opinion of the Advocate General, Hungary will be required, as a member of the EU, to scrap Lex CEU and restore the ability of CEU to operate as a U.S.-accredited university in Hungary.

At the moment, CEUʼs legal status in Hungary remains unchanged. As of January 2019, Lex CEU rendered it illegal for the university to enroll students in their U.S.-accredited degrees.

As a result, CEU opened a campus in Vienna and will begin accepting all new students there in September 2020.

According to a press release sent to the Budapest Business Journal, CEU will proceed with its plans to transfer all U.S. degree instruction to Vienna until the government withdraws the legislation.

Still, the university will continue to maintain a public presence in Hungary, with an Institute of Advanced Study, an Open Society Archives, a Democracy Institute, cognitive science labs, and Hungarian accredited programs.

The opinion does not bind the court.

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