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EPP warns Fidesz about anti-EU rhetoric

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The European People’s Party has asked Hungarian governing party Fidesz “to take all necessary steps to comply with the [European] Commission’s request”, in terms of legislation related to Hungary’s academic freedom and civic societies, according to a press statement put out by the EPP. Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has promised to act accordingly, while the embattled Central European University (CEU) has welcomed the EPP’s stance.

Antal Rogán, the Minister heading the Cabinet Office of the Price Minister talking after the meeting. (Photo: Balázs Szecsődi / kormany.hu)

Orbán was summoned to the Presidency of the European People’s Party (EPP) on April 29 to explain the latest developments related to the Hungarian Higher Education Act and the “Let’s stop Brussels” national consultation, as well as planned measures on NGOs.

Following the meeting, EPP President Joseph Daul issued a statement, in which he stressed the importance of “dialogue as the best way to communicate with its members and to overcome differences”.

“The EPP Presidency sent a clear message to Prime Minister Orbán and his party, Fidesz, that we will not accept that any basic freedoms are restricted or rule of law is disregarded. This includes academic freedom and the autonomy of universities. The EPP wants the CEU to remain open, deadlines suspended and dialogue with the U.S. to begin. The EPP believes that NGOs are an integral part of any healthy democracy, that they represent the civil society and that they must be respected,” Daul’s statement says. 

EPP strong on ‘anti-EU rhetoric’

The EPP also made it clear to “our Hungarian partners” that the “blatant anti-EU rhetoric” Fidesz has used in the “Let’s stop Brussels” consultation is “unacceptable”. “The constant attacks on Europe, which Fidesz has launched for years, have reached a level we cannot tolerate. This consultation has been deeply misleading. The European Union was founded by visionary representatives of the EPP, and our convictions are deeply pro-European. We do not have to remind Viktor Orbán, of all people, that decisions in Brussels are taken collectively by European governments, including his Hungarian government, and by the European Parliament, which includes representatives of the Hungarian people,” Daul says in the statement.

Hungary’s place in EU, Fidesz’ in EPP

“By the end of the meeting of the European People’s Party, it was evident to every one of the attendees that Hungary’s place is in the EU, and Fidesz’s place is in the European People’s Party,” Antal Rogán, the Minister heading the Cabinet Office of the Price Minister said after the meeting, according to a report published by official government website kormany.hu.

“Whatever legal proceedings may be instituted against us, the government is ready to seriously consider each and every legal argument that the European Commission may cite,” he stressed, according to the government website.

Rogán further pointed out that Orbán made it clear at the meeting in the context of the CEU that “we take the view that the Soros-founded Közép-európai Egyetem that operates in Hungary is not threatened by any legislative amendment”. He added that education in the institution and the freedom of academic research continue to remain guaranteed, and the university may also start new semesters, according to kormany.hu.

CEU welcomes EPP’s stance

CEU has welcomed the EPP’s stance. The university noted that the Hungarian government’s major allies in the European Parliament sent a clear message to the prime minister that they will not accept “that any basic freedoms are restricted or rule of law is disregarded. This includes academic freedom and the autonomy of universities.” CEU added that it hopes the Hungarian government will act on the statement: “The EPP wants the CEU to remain open, deadlines suspended and dialogue with the U.S. to begin.”

“We are grateful for the EPP’s call to suspend the deadlines and start negotiations,” said CEU President and Rector Michael Ignatieff. “We have called for negotiations from the beginning and we want them to reach a successful conclusion so that we can get back to work.”

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