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Parliament expected to fast-track ‘lex CEU’ Tuesday

The Hungarian Parliament is set to debate and vote on a draft bill on education tomorrow in an expedited procedure that has been cited in the media as “lex CEU,” because, if approved, it threatens to make operations impossible for the Central European University in Budapest.

Deputy Prime Minister Zsolt Semjén initiated the exceptional proceedings in writing today for the draft bill, which means it will be debated and voted on Tuesday. Only a simple majority is required to pass the legislation in the assembly, and as the governing Fidesz-KDNP coalition has one seat short of a two-thirds majority, the bill is widely expected to pass into law.

Semjén initiated the change in tomorrow’s agenda in order to permit the “soonest passing of the proposal that is justified by governmental interests,” according to Hungarian news portal index.hu. The online daily also notes that the draft bill has not been seen by the relevant cultural and education committees.

Index.hu reports that exceptional proceedings can be invoked four times in a parliamentary season, recalling that the last time Fidesz applied for such a procedure was at the end of 2015 when the national tax authority NAV was restructured.

The government claims the draft bill will make the activities of all foreign universities more transparent. However, the Central European University claims the new legislation would force CEU to close its doors, and is specifically targeted at the institution founded in 1991 by Hungarian-born philanthropist and financier George Soros, the target of increasingly vehement recent criticism from the Fidesz-led government.

Thousands of protestors gathered in front of Parliament Sunday in solidarity with the CEU in the face of the proposed legislation, which has drawn worldwide condemnation from academic circles and expressions of grave concern from the U.S. government.