Major protest in Hungary over university law

2017-04-09 21:56
Demonstrators in Budapest protest against the Hungarian government’s proposal to amend the higher education law. (Janos Marjaj, AP)

Demonstrators in Budapest protest against the Hungarian government’s proposal to amend the higher education law. (Janos Marjaj, AP)

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Budapest - Hungary saw the biggest anti-government protest in three years on Sunday as tens of thousands demonstrated against new higher education legislation seen as targeting the respected Central European University.

Between 60 000 and 70 000 people took part, organisers said, many wearing the blue of the CEU and some waving Hungarian, EU as well as US flags as they marched to the government offices in Budapest.

Widespread criticism

The English-language CEU was founded by Hungarian-born billionaire George Soros in the early 1990s, aimed at helping the region's transition from communism to democracy.

The new rules, approved by parliament on Tuesday, bar institutions based outside the European Union from awarding Hungarian diplomas without an agreement between national governments.

They will also be required to have a campus and faculties in their home country - conditions not met by the CEU, which is registered in the United States.

The legislation has attracted widespread criticism abroad, including from Washington, Brussels and academics. There were also street protests last Sunday and on Tuesday.

The legislation, which still has to be signed into law by the president, does not mention the CEU by name but the university sees itself as the main target and has warned it may have to close.

Foreign funding

Critics see the move as another attack by Prime Minister Viktor Orban on Soros, whom he accuses of seeking to meddle in politics and undermine Europe by promoting immigration into Europe.

Last week the government published legislation that will oblige NGOs receiving above a certain amount of foreign funding to register and stamp any publication with "foreign-funded organisation".

Mirroring similar rules in Russia, this is also seen as targeting Soros's Open Society Foundation which funds civil society groups and which has also come under fire elsewhere in the region.

Read more on:    viktor orban  |  george soros  |  hungary  |  education

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