'Lex CEU'

Academic Freedom, Civil Society and the Embattled Legacies of 1989
Edited by Eva-Clarita Pettai and Michal Kopeček

The recent attempts by the Hungarian government to shut down the Central European University (CEU) in Budapest triggered a wave of protest and of solidarity from academics and politicians worldwide. The law, which quickly became known as 'LEX CEU', was widely perceived not just as an infringement on academic freedom, but also as yet another move by the government of Viktor Orbán, a self-professed adherent of 'illiberalism', to retreat from the basic principles of liberal democracy and the rule of law. Events in Poland over the summer, especially the recent attempts to eviscerate judicial independence in this other European Union member state, have since further increased the impression that we are witnessing a new phase in a process that is marked by a significant shift away from the political ideas and values that were established after the fall of communist rule in East Central Europe (ECE).   

Yet, has the post-communist ’liberal consensus’ that some experts saw actually ever really existed? Do we need to maybe reconsider the narrative of Central Europe’s successful path to stable liberal democratic rule and an open society? In this special focus project of the Cultures of History Forum we seek to place the ‘Lex CEU’ in a broader context, both regionally and historically, and to ask what the state of academic freedom, civil society and liberal values is in the countries that came out of communist dictatorships more than 25 years ago. The contributions we collected reflect not only on local reactions to the 'Lex CEU', but also on anti-Soros sentiments, openly illiberal and anti-liberal policies and rhetoric as well as on the situation of civil society in different countries of the region, spanning from the Baltics to the Balkans. They draw an intriguing and multi-facetted picture of a region that is struggling to make sense of the legacies of 1989.


Eva-Clarita Pettai and Michal Kopeček · 12. Sep 2017

The 'Lex CEU' and the heavy anti-EU and anti-Soros campaigns that accompanied this legislative move against the Central European University (CEU) in Budapest in the spring of 2017 cause...

Slow-cooking Academia 'à la Polonaise': On the State of Academic Freedom in Poland

Marta Bucholc · 12. Sep 2017

Among the many idealistic reveries floating throughout Eastern and Central Europe there is one about a university. This place, crowded with highly motivated students learning zealously ...

Open Society v. Illiberal State: Europe, Hungary, and the ‘Lex CEU’

Viktoria Harms · 12. Sep 2017

"Nobody knows what the CEU is", grumbled Viktor Orbán, the Prime Minister of Hungary, on his weekly radio broadcast called Index on 30 March 2017. Two days earlier, an amendment to the ...

Illiberal Consensus without an Authoritarian Core: The Case of Bulgaria

Elitza Stanoeva · 12. Sep 2017

The news about the recent Hungarian legislation that threatens the existence of the Central European University (CEU), known as ‘Lex CEU’, was received with mixed, sometimes strong feel...

'Lex CEU': Romanian Echoes and Trends

Oana-Valentina Suciu · 12. Sep 2017

The events that surrounded the status of the Central European University (CEU) in Budapest at the beginning of April 2017 sparked vivid debates and public reactions in neighbouring Roma...

‘Lex CEU’, Anti-Soros Campaigns and the State of Civil Society in Serbia

Isabela Kisic · 12. Sep 2017

Since its foundation in 1992 the Central European University in Budapest has attracted quite a number of students from Serbia. While there, they have learned to see the broader context ...

A Bastion of Democracy or Half Way Down the Slippery Slope? Liberal Values and Illiberal Tendencies in the Czech Republic

Marie Heřmanová and Štěpán Drahokoupil · 12. Sep 2017

In the context of the Visegrad countries (V4), the Czech Republic is sometimes seen as the “beacon of hope” – being named as such by liberals in Western Europe in reaction to the recent...

Hungary’s 'Lex CEU' and the State of the Open Society: Looking Beyond the Story of Democratic Revolutions

Ágnes Gagyi · 12. Sep 2017

The Cultures of History Forum’s invitation to discuss the 'Lex CEU' and the state of the open society focuses on threats against academic freedom and civil society in Central and Easter...

Unstable Stalemate: Latvian Liberalism in Limbo

Pauls Raudseps · 12. Sep 2017

When Latvia held its first completely free parliamentary elections in 1993 two years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the winner was Latvijas Ceļš (The Latvian Way – LC), a self-...