Following a draft law from Victor Orban’s government that would effectively ban the globally regarded Central European University (CEU) from operating in Hungary, S&D Group President Gianni Pittella said:
“After the attack on the media autonomy, now Orban is trying to silence another outstanding symbol of the freedom of thought and expression in Hungary: The Central European University. This is completely unacceptable and reinforces our concerns over the decline of democracy in Hungary under Orban’s constant attacks.
“Is the current democratic level acceptable for a full member of the European Union? Are Orban and the current Hungarian leadership respectful of EU’s democratic principles and the rule of law?
“It is an outrage that Fidesz and Orban are still members of the EPP family. I wonder what else should happen in Hungary before someone in the EPP wakes up and finds the courage to finally say something over the worrying situation in Hungary.
“The proposed legislation – if adopted – would make it impossible for the University to continue its operations in Budapest. With this blatant attack on an independent institution of higher education, Orban proves once again that his aim is just to get rid of his political enemies. Every piece of legislation that is targeted and discriminatory must be immediately withdrawn.”
“As the EPP is still silent, the S&D Group calls on the European Commission to monitor this slide from full democracy and finally sanction Orban’s government. Enough is enough.”
István Ujhelyi MEP, Head of the Hungarian delegation in the S&D Group, added:
“What is happening now to the Central European University is more than a mere threat or an act of political vengeance. It is another step towards unbridled authoritarianism akin to that of Erdogan or Putin, where independent institutions are shut down overnight. This is an act of cowardice, a disgraceful action that brings Orban’s illiberal regime to a new, darker chapter. Furthermore it sets a dangerous precedent that might jeopardize the operations of education institutions backed by the Hungarian government abroad.
“Clamping down on universities for political gain is surely not the “pro-European” approach what the EPP-ALDE coalition – counting Orban within its ranks – supposedly champions. The EPP Group’s silence is a painful reminder that the European Parliament’s biggest group is unable to sanction one of its members even if our common European values are at stake. The transformation of a young democracy into illiberal authoritarianism is happening right under our nose here, in Europe. Whoever remains silent, whoever does not stand up for our shared values loses the right to position himself as a guardian of the democratic rights our union is built upon.”