Published: Tue, April 11, 2017
Science | By Carlton Santiago

Major protest in Hungary over Soros university law

Major protest in Hungary over Soros university law

The 199-seat parliament voted 123 to 38 in favour of the legislation, placing tough restrictions on foreign universities operating in Hungary, the BBC reports.

The new rules bar institutions based outside the European Union from awarding Hungarian diplomas without a binding agreement between national governments.

European lawmakers have demanded disciplinary action against Hungary over the crackdown on foreign universities, the latest step by Orban to subdue independent institutions - including the judiciary, central bank, NGOs and media.

The protest drew some of the largest crowds against Orban's seven-year rule, with organisers estimating attendance around 70,000.

The Hungarian premier has often vilified Soros, whose ideals are squarely at odds with Orban's view that European culture is under an existential threat from migration and multiculturalism.

Demonstrators chant slogans during a protest against the amendment of the higher education law that could force a Budapest university founded by billionaire American philanthropist George Soros to close, in front of the Ministry of Human Resources, in Budapest, Sunday, April 9, 2017.

The legislation has been rushed through parliament and now awaits the signature of the country's president to become law.

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The US State Department, however, has made it clear that CEU has "bipartisan support" in Washington and that it "will continue to advocate for its independence and unhindered operation in Hungary".

Orban, who has increased Hungary's dependence on Russia with a long-term nuclear energy deal, may also be doing a favor to Russian President Vladimir Putin, whom he has hosted in Budapest twice in the last two years. "Let's stop Viktor Orbán", "Free country, free university!" and "We have had enough!".

Hoyt Yee, the Deputy Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs, will be in Budapest on Monday to meet with Hungarian government officials, in part to discuss CEU. Yee is also expected to meet with authorities from the university.

Critics of the bill said it was aimed at restricting the freedom of speech and democratic values in the country.

A law expected to be passed in May would force nongovernmental organizations getting more than $24,500 a year from overseas to register with authorities.

"I think that the frustration of the people against this government has increased so much, that many are also here among those who doesn't even know what CEU is", said an ex-CEU student. "The aim of the government is to ensure that all universities are governed by the same rules, and there should not be privileges", he said.

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