Hungary’s Minister of Justice has announced that “The Government has submitted its amendment to the Act on Higher Education. Despite increasing – but legally unfounded –pressure, the Government maintains its firm belief that Hungarian laws are binding on everyone, even the American Central European University”.

László Trócsányi told reporters that “The amendment extends the deadline within which foreign higher education institutions must fulfil the conditions for their continued operations in Hungary”. He added that “The amendment to the Act on Higher Education adopted in the spring of this year sets out clear and calculable conditions that can be met by all”.

“The conditions relate to all foreign institutions that carry out higher education activities and operate – or wish to operate – in Hungary; this includes the American Central European University (CEU). This ensures the transparent operations of foreign higher education institutions operating in Hungary”, the Minister added.

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Mr. Trócsányi indicated that “When deciding on submitting its proposed amendment, the Cabinet also took into account the fact that several institutions succeeded in fulfilling the new requirements prescribed for them within the time available”.

He was referring to the fact that the agreement concluded between Hungary and the State or Maryland was published in Thursday’s edition of the Hungarian Official Gazette. This enables the continued operations of McDaniel College Budapest, which is also American.

Mr. Trócsányi explained that the originally prescribed deadline of 1 January 2018 had clearly been sufficient for those foreign higher education institutions operating in Hungary that “took effective action in the interests of reaching an agreement, instead of inciting needless political disputes and conflict”. The Minister said that the Government believes that a solution is possible, and is taking into account the fact that negotiations are still ongoing with other foreign higher education institutions operating in Hungary, including the American CEU.

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He also told reporters that when coming to its decision the Cabinet had also considered the proposal of the Hungarian Rectors’ Conference in relation to the deadline’s extension. The Minister indicated that, in its report, the Venice Commission has particularly welcomed this suggestion from the Conference.

Mr. Trócsányi pointed out that the Venice Commission’s recommendation made it clear that the regulation of higher education institutions is a national competence. He added that one of the points in the Commission’s report is that the Hungarian regulations it has assessed are in complete harmony with all European standards, and legitimately serve the transparency and high-quality operations of future higher education institutions.

“Hungary, however, cannot accept that these regulations should not also be applied to higher education institutions that are already operating here, because precisely that approach would create a discriminatory situation”, the Minister said.

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Mr. Trócsányi said that it is the Government’s firm belief that foreign higher education institutions in Hungary are able to fully meet the conditions prescribed for them, provided they are willing to do so. He added that he trusts that the new deadline set out in the current amendment will be sufficient to allow all those involved – even the American CEU – to fulfil the required conditions.

Mr. Trócsányi observed that dialogue with the European Commission – which the Hungarian government regards as being of an exclusively legal and specialist nature – is still ongoing. Accordingly, he added, the Government hopes that the legal arguments raised during the course of the infringement proceedings will be considered by the Commission on their merits.

If the National Assembly adopts the Bill, higher education institutions will have until 1 January 2019 – instead of the original 1 January 2018 – to fulfil the conditions set down in the amendment to the Act on Higher Education adopted in the spring.

(Cabinet Office of the Prime Minister/MTI)