GENEVA (11 April 2017) – The Parliament of Hungary should reconsider recently adopted legislation which appears to be aimed at undermining the Central European University (CEU) in Budapest, says a United Nations human rights expert.
The bill, adopted on 4 April and signed by President János Áder into law yesterday, “is likely to violate the central precepts of academic freedom in a free society,” warned the UN Special Rapporteur on the freedom of opinion and expression, David Kaye.
“The new law targets freedom of opinion and expression in Hungary, freedom of academic pursuit, the role that scholarship and research play in the expansion of knowledge and the development of democratic societies,” he said.
“Adopted quickly without normal legislative process, the bill seemed designed to damage CEU,” the expert noted. The CEU is accredited in both Hungary and the United States and offers English language postgraduate courses in a range of subjects.
The new law requires, among other things, foreign-accredited universities to provide higher education services in their own country. It also bans universities accredited outside the EU from awarding Hungarian diplomas in the absence of a binding international agreement between the Hungarian government and the national government of the foreign university.
The new legislation also prevents Hungarian-accredited universities that are linked to foreign universities from delivering programmes or issuing degrees from the foreign university with which they are associated. The bill also forbids institutions from having the same or similar names.
“While the new legislation is drafted in seemingly neutral terms, its restrictions would particularly hit CEU,” Mr. Kaye said. “If enacted, its requirements and timelines could cause the University to cease its operations.”
“Members of Parliament have a unique opportunity to restate Hungary’s commitment to democratic norms and academic freedom. I urge them to reconsider this law,” the Special Rapporteur concluded.
Mr. Kaye’s statement is endorsed by the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association, Maina Kiai, and the Special Rapporteur on cultural rights, Karima Bennoune.
The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.