Despite criticism from outside, the Hungarian Parliament has adopted a new law that imposes new requirements for Universities in Hungary – requirements that, apparently, George Soros’s “Central European University” (CEU) is currently not able or not willing to fulfil. Immediately it is rumoured that the new law is specifically targeting the CEU, and that it it is part of a larger design to crack down on “liberalism”… reason enough for the EU’s Deputy Sheriff Frans Timmermans to issue a lengthy press statement in which he not only expresses “concern over the situation in Hungary”, but (indirectly) even brandishes the threat of a “Rule-of-Law-Procedure” against Hungary to defend “our shared values”.
There is no question that the EU is built on shared values – but fortunately there is no obligation for anyone to interpret those values the way Mr. Timmermans does. His press statement is so grotesquely over-the-top that for Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban it must be ridiculous rather than intimidating.
Concerning the legal side of things, it is clear that in our time of freedom of opinion and expression anyone can promote his specific set of values, hold lectures on them, and make others pay for it. In that sense, one does not see how Mr. Orban can, or even intends to, shut down Mr. Soros’s activities in Hungary. A university, however, is a different thing: it issues diploma, which then have to be recognized as such by third persons. Like it or not, universities are not a free market in which anybody can sell anything, but they are – in Hungary as much as anywhere else in the EU – subject to regulation that aims to ensure certain standards in order to ensure consistent quality and forestall academic fraud. The question is therefore not whether the CEU is allowed to exist on Hungarian soil, but whether the Hungarian State defines it as a “University” and recognizes the diploma it issues. And there can be absolutely no doubt that the Hungarian government is fully within its rights to regulate that – every claim to the contrary is just outright ridiculous. The new law affects not the CEU alone but allegedly around 25 more institutions. And the Hungarian Government is acting on the basis of a law that has been adopted in Parliament and that prima facie does not seem unconstitutional – so where is the problem with the rule of law?
Mr. Timmermans’s value-waffle is unfortunate, because it strengthens the impression that the European Commission wants to use the powers conferred on it by the EU Treaties as a means to bully Member States on issues which are clearly within their own competences. And if one had any reason to doubt the appropriateness of Orban’s current “Stop Brussels” campaign, Timmermans has now retroactively provided it with new legitimacy.
Concerning the CEU itself, it seems a gross over-statement that it is “one of the most important universities not only in Hungary, but in the European Higher Education Area”, and that subjecting it to new regulation “might restrict scientific and academic freedom of thought”. The truth is that this is not a full-fledged university, but an academic institution that specialises in certain disciplines of social science and law, clearly in order to promote certain political agendas. The founder and financier, George Soros, is not really a “philantropist”, but rather a political entrepreneur whose agenda is best identified by looking at the lobby groups he (or his proxy, the “Open Society Foundation”, OSF) is funding: as a brief look at this website reveals, his particular emphasis is to advance atheism, sodomy and abortion, thus denying the human rights of the smallest and weakest members of society (= unborn children) and undermining the social fabric that is the very pre-condition of a functioning democratic society. Are these really “our shared values”?
Mr. Soros was a successful investor even prior to 1992, but he ascended to his extraordinary value and notoriety precisely thanks to his cleverness in discovering and using one of the biggest failures of the EU’s policies: the common monetary policy, which allowed him to successfully place a multi-billion-dollar bet against the Sterling and the Lira. It is quite ironic that such a one is now considered by the European Commission as a herald of “our shared values”. Or perhaps it is even logical: for as long as the EU with its mis-begotten monetary policy exists, it will be a continuous source of revenues for the likes of Mr. Soros – and to the detriment to the rest of us, who do not specialise in currency speculations….
Be that as it may, the true lesson to be learnt is that the EU should take a closer look at how certain NGOs are financed. Hungary is a small country with very little wealth, and even the donation of a few tens of thousands of Euros can hugely influence the ability of a group to raise its voice and influence national politics. Mr. Soros finances a great number of non-governmentals – on condition that they promote the agenda he wants them to promote. Is this really “civil-society”, or is this not rather the paid staff of Mr. Soros, whom he needs as his mouthpiece and echo chamber? Other billionaires, like Donald Trump or Silvio Berlusconi, have at least stood for election and subject their agendas to a popular vote – Mr. Soros, by contrast, has never done that. The increasingly critical view that certain governments have vis-à-vis his style of “philantropy” is therefore not unjustified, but rather it seems motivated by a genuine concern for democracy.