The European Parliament’s foreign affairs committee (AFET) on Wednesday, November 21, voted on the Recommendation on Academic Freedom in the EU’s External Action report, which aims to make academic freedom a specific human rights concern in the EU’s foreign policy.

To ensure credibility, the European Parliament rapporteur for the file, the S&D MEP Wajid Khan tried to guarantee that the report required coherence between external and internal policies, as is standard with foreign affairs reports.

That is why the S&D proposed amendments referring specifically to Hungary and the increasing attacks on foreign universities in the EU – like the American-based Central European University in Budapest, which Prime Minister Viktor Orbán is currently trying to close.

The S&D also proposed to include academic freedom in the Copenhagen criteria for EU candidate countries.

Unfortunately, after the request made by the EPP shadow rapporteur, Andrea Bocskor from Fidesz, these amendments were ruled as inadmissible by the chair of the committee, who is also an MEP from the EPP.

“The EPP showed its true colours today after bowing to pressure from Fidesz, the increasingly autocratic party which has cracked down on free speech and academic freedom in Hungary, and weakening our report. Overall, the report was a huge success and I am proud that the Parliament will recommend stringent academic freedom measures. However, it could have gone further,” said S&D MEP Wajid Khan.

“The EU will have no credibility in external relations if we cannot get our own house in order – this is directly linked to Fidesz’s attacks on freedoms, including academic freedom, in Hungary. We cannot say there is one rule for them and another rule for us. This is an incredibly concerning trend, and yet the EPP claim to value free speech and democratic values. They even placed academic freedom in a recent resolution at their conference, saying that ‘Governments should protect academic freedom at all times’. It transpires that this isn’t the case at all, and they will allow themselves to be carried further right by the increasingly autocratic regime in Hungary,” he added.