The European Parliament’s Committee on Culture and Education (CULT) has made several serious criticisms regarding the situation in Hungary.
Members of the committee on Wednesday voted 13:4 to approve the opinion which stated that it was regrettable the dispute between the European Commission and the Hungarian government regarding Hungary’s higher education law had not been resolved to date.
Hungary, it noted, has the right to its own education laws but these must not conflict with freedom rights of the internal market.
The committee put the matter of Hungary’s higher education law on the agenda in March in connection with a report on Hungary being drawn up by the EP Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE). The CULT opinion will be included in the LIBE report.
The committee said the protracted case of the Central European University (CEU) and the agreement regarding the university’s operations was problematic. It called on the government to sign the agreement since the CEU had fulfilled the prescribed conditions.
Meanwhile, the committee said the European Commission had not been careful enough in its examination of the 2010 Hungarian media law.
It cited rules on cross-ownership which, it said, caused distortions and imbalances in the media market.
Ownership concentration has intensified on the Hungarian media market and many independent local broadcasters and television stations have disappeared, it said, adding that the public service broadcaster generally spread government messages uncritically.
Spending on public advertisements favours certain companies at the expense of others, while government spending on adverts tends to be directed towards government-dominated and “oligarch-controlled” media outlets, it said.
The committee also expressed concerns about the situation of freedom and diversity of the press, as well as the narrowing space for civil society organisations.
It also said forms of everyday discrimination against Roma were numerous and segregation of Roma children in schools was systemic.
Given the situation in higher education, discrimination against Roma, problems with press freedom and the situation of NGOs, there is a clear risk of serious violations of EU values, justifying the launch of Article 7 of the EU treaty, the committee said.
Andrea Bocskor, an MEP for ruling Fidesz, responded as saying that the committee’s critical remarks are unfounded and the assessment is politically biased.
“The members of the committee have completely disregarded objective facts and the actual situation; they have in fact decided in advance that Hungary must be punished and pillorised,” she said.
Bocskor said that “by threatening Hungary with a procedure under Article 7, the political left obviously wants to put pressure on the Hungarian government, force it to compromise on its policies, yield to the will of the Brussels mainstream and sacrifice the country on the altar of the ‘open society’ concept”.
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