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CJEU rules ʼLex CEUʼ incompatible with EU law

The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) ruled that amendments to Hungarian legislation requiring foreign colleges and universities to operate on the basis of an intergovernmental agreement and to have a campus in the country in which they are based are incompatible with EU law, according to a report by state news wire MTI.

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The court said requiring an intergovernmental agreement for foreign institutions of higher education to operate does not comply with commitments in relation to national treatment given under the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), concluded within the framework of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), and is contrary to the provisions of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU relating to academic freedom, the freedom to found higher education institutions and the freedom to conduct business.

The European Commission launched an infringement procedure against Hungary over the amendments in the spring of 2017. The EC said the amendments are "not compatible with the freedom for higher education institutions to provide services and establish themselves anywhere in the EU" and added that it is "of the opinion that the new legislation runs counter to the right of academic freedom, the right to education and the freedom to conduct a business".

The CJEU earlier noted that Central European University (CEU), founded by Hungarian-born American investor George Soros, was the only foreign university operating in Hungary that failed to meet the requirements outlined in the amendments approved by lawmakers in 2017.