Amendments to the Hungarian law on higher education which make the operation of foreign institutions conditional on teaching activity in their countries of origin and an intergovernmental agreement violate European Union and World Trade Organization rules, the advocate general of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) said.
In an opinion released on Thursday, General Advocate Juliane Kokott said Hungary “must treat foreign and national higher education institutions equally”.
Hungary’s parliament passed the amendments in spring 2017.
The opinion, which does not bind the CJEU, said such requirements could demonstrate the reliability of foreign institutions of higher education and contribute to preventing fraudulent practices, but added that the contested legislation “appears to be a means of arbitrary discrimination”.
The CJEU noted in a press release on the opinion that the Central European University (CEU), founded by investor George Soros, was the only foreign university that failed to meet the requirements outlined in the amendments approved by lawmakers in 2017.
The European Commission launched an infringement procedure against Hungary over the amendments shortly after they were approved.
The EC said the amendments are “not compatible with the freedom for higher education institutions to provide services and establish themselves anywhere in the EU” and added that it is “of the opinion that the new legislation runs counter to the right of academic freedom, the right to education and the freedom to conduct a business”.