It's time for the EU to take a stand against Hungary's Orbán

April 3, 2017, 1:49 pm    
The European Union has tolerated Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán for too long, and "it’s time to take a stand," a former professor at Budapest’s Central European University (CEU), now in Orbán’s cross-hair targeted for demolition, wrote in an opinion piece published in The Guardian on Monday.

Cas Mudde, associate professor in the School of Public and International Affairs (SPIA) at the University of Georgia in the United States and researcher at the Center for Research on Extremism at the University of Oslo, was teaching at CEU for two years.

"Today, my former students include a professor at Yale Universityand a vice president of a university in the region. They would not be where they are today without the CEU, which provided them a fully funded opportunity to get a top-notch western education," he said.

Hungary devised new rules that CEU says are targeted at the university directly and would "make it impossible ... to continue its operations" in Budapest.

The university’s departure would deal a serious blow to higher education in Hungary and the country’s reputation as a regional leader, The Guardian said on 29 March.

The planned new legislation comes after the Education Office discovered that 28 foreign-linked universities "are operating in Hungary unlawfully", including CEU, Oxford Brookes, Edinburgh Napier, CECOS London College, Anglia Ruskin University, and the universities of Middlesex, Buckingham, Hertfordshire, and Newport in Wales. Institutions from the US, Germany and France are also listed, The Guardian reminded.

He added Orbán has "become a bitter opponent" of Hungarian-born billionaire financier George Soros, who had founded CEU in 1991, two years after the fall of communism in Hungary. The PM accused Soros of encouraging Europe’s refugee crisis and acting as a shadowy influence on Hungarian and global politics. Orbán has talked of promoting "illiberal democracy" and portrayed himself as a leader protecting Europe from migration, the paper added.

The speech itself drew the ire of several key world figures. What he had said was condemned by the world’s most prestigious newspapers, including The Washington Post,The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Economist and Newsweek, or renowned U.S. economist and philosopher Francis Fukuyama and a number of European Commission officials. It drew criticism by U.S. President Barack Obama, German Chancellor Angela Merkel former U.S. President Bill Clinton who said Orbán "never wants to leave power" and U.S. Senator John McCain who went as far as calling the PM a "neo-fascist dictator".

Mudde said the law proposal "in itself not that surprising,
as CEU is everything Orbán detests: it is critical, global, independent and multicultural."

He added that while 20 years ago Orbán was "still seen, and mostly acted, as a pro-western, rightwing politician", he is "no longer the darling of the western establishment, but rather the role model of illiberal democrats across Europe, from Marine Le Pen in France to the current government in Poland."

He has already "transformed his own country into an illiberal democracy," he added.

It should be clear by now that Orbán’s actions are not merely a domestic affair
, Mudde said.

He reminded that Hungary is a member of the EU and should respect its laws, and that the country "has become a bellwether for illiberal democracy in Europe and an inspiration for illiberal democrats throughout the region."

Hence, in Mudde’s view, "the struggle over CEU is not just about that unique university, it is about all universities, and it is about liberal democracy."

"If we don’t take a stand now, we will be fighting similar measures in Poland and other countries soon. The time of accommodating Orbán must end now. It has failed. Rather, it is radicalising others and hollowing out the very values the EU, and EPP, claim to stand for.[...]"

Click here for the full article.

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