Restriction of freedom of movement in Hungary

Allan Päll, ESU elnök február 9-ei levele Brüsszelnek.

Dear Commissioners Mr. Andor and Mrs. Vassiliou,

I am turning to you due to a request from our member, the National Union of Students in Hungary (HÖOK). They have informed us of the changes of the Law on Higher Education and the potential negative effects it has on students in Hungary. As we have reason to believe that this new law violates EU legislation, we would like to raise objection to the learning agreement (‘student contract’), which is becoming applicable to the state-funded students. We are thus kindly requesting the European Commission to deliver its opinion on this issue.

Following the decision of the Hungarian government on the learning agreement, which applies to all students admitted to fully or partially state-financed places, students would have to work in Hungary for a period that is twice in length compared to their studies. Graduates should fulfil this requirement within 20 years after having received their diploma. If they should not meet this requirement to work in Hungary, they will be requested to pay to the Hungarian state for the cost of their studies.

The European Students’ Union (ESU) believes that this represents an unjustifiable restriction to freedom of movement for workers and is as such a violation of the 45th Article of the Treaty of the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU). There have been no special reasons given for this policy and we very much hope that DG Employment and Social Affairs and DG Education and Culture will deliver an opinion on this and if necessary, take legal action against this clause in the legislation. We believe, these contracts to entail a serious and unfair discrimination of graduates who will not be able to use their freedom to work anywhere in the EU.

ESU kindly requests the Commission to deliver its opinion as soon as possible. At the same time, we would like to emphasise that the drastic curtailment of admission quotas in general and the complete elimination of student participation in the Hungarian Accreditation Committee will have further negative impact on students and quality of higher education. These restrictions show a worrying trend and we especially fear that more countries will consider putting restrictions on learning mobility, which is why we ask for swift action.

If you require more information, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Yours sincerely,

Allan Päll, Chair of European Students’ Union