Dear Mr Weber,
Our parties, being on the opposite sides of the political spectrum disagree on many issues. It is only natural that although we both work for the advancement of the European Union and our respective countries, there will be always differences between our ideas.
However, our groups are still able to cooperate because we know that in spite of the different ideologies, we all share certain core values, such as the unquestionable commitment to democracy and to rule of law. We all want to serve the best interest of our fellow Europeans.
Taking for granted that we share the above values, I write to you to express my views on the recent attack on the Budapest based Central European University (CEU) coming from the ruling Fidesz party, member of EPP Group. At the same time, I want to kindly urge you to do the same and share your opinion and that of the Group of the European People's Party in the European Parliament on the matter.
German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier has already done that in his speech at the European Parliament. I do agree with him when he says “Europe, then, must not be silent, when civil society, even academia - as now at Central European University, Budapest - are deprived of the air to breathe”. I similarly share the views of another compatriot of yours, Norbert Röttgen, who urged the institutions of the European Union to step up against the Hungarian government’s plan to close down CEU.
Orbán’s Fidesz party passed a bill in an expedited procedure imposing tough criteria on foreign universities operating in Hungary. Although, the government says it is to ensure transparency in the field of higher education, it is clear to all who followed the happenings of the last week that the bill was created specifically against CEU, to deny that is an insult to common sense.
This decision left thousands of Hungarian and international academics, scholars, among them 20 Nobel Laureates, students and other protesters angry and helpless. More than 40.000 professionals urged the Hungarian government to withdraw the tabled legislation targeting Central European University, but their voices were ignored. Right now people are protesting on the streets of Budapest, determined to stand with the university.
It is not the first time that Orbán and his party attacked an important pillar of democratic societies. Europe has seen the fall of the free Hungarian media; it has witnessed the crackdown on Hungarian civil society; and now it is watching how academic freedom fades away in Hungary. No wonder observers of current Hungarian politics often compare Orbán’s governing style to that of Vladimir Putin’s.
Europeans are aware that Orbán is building his illiberal democracy or populist autocracy (whichever fits better to describe today’s Hungary) as a member of EPP. So the question arises: does the Group of the European People's Party really share these values? Does EPP approve of Orbán’s acts?
Hungarians, currently protesting in front of the Parliament and their international supporters want to know the answers to those questions and we all want to hear it from the chair of EPP Group. Do you stand with Fidesz or do you stand with CEU?