It is troubling to see how intimidation tactics and smears have seamlessly transformed into some of the Hungarian government’s defining policies. As is well-known, Viktor Orbán’s personal disdain for George Soros, Hungarian-born US businessmen, has inspired several legislative reforms. These included the introduction of a transparency register for foreign NGOs, which was recently found incompatible with Union law (analysed here), and the so-called ‘Stop Soros’ legislation, the latter being subject to ongoing infringement proceedings before the Court of Justice. In a recent grand chamber judgment, the Court brought yet another blistering defeat to the Hungarian government, albeit one that leaves a bitter taste in the mouth.
The case formally concerned the reform of the Hungarian higher education law, but effectively targeted one institution only, namely the Central European University (CEU). This inspired the hashtag-worthy yet appropriate term ‘lex CEU’. The reforms were a relatively transparent attempt to frustrate the university`s activities in Hungary and to force it out of the country. Even though the Court unequivocally sided with the Commission, the CEU, in the meantime, was forced to relocate to Vienna, where it opened its new Campus. Against this background, Hungarian MEP Katalin Cseh put it best when she reportedly noted that ‘justice delayed is justice denied’.