There was a lot of fuss about Hungary’s higher education law, probably because the only university which found itself unable — or unwilling — to comply was George Soros’ Central European University. As could be expected, last October, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) sided with the European Commission and ruled that the Hungarian law enacted in 2017 infringed World Trade Organization (WOT) rules on trade and the European Charter of Fundamental Rights . Despite Europe’s top court ruling against Hungary, Brussels is turning a blind eye to a new education law from Spain, which will promote liberal sexual education, gender ideology, and place new hardships on private and Catholic schools. The two different cases in Spain and Hungary say much about the double-standards the EU applies to conservative governments like that in Hungary and liberal, pro-immigration governments like the one ruling Spain. The Hungarian law introduced two requirements for a university to have the right to deliver foreign diplomas in Hungary: First, the university should have tuition in its home country, and second, there must exist a bilateral state-level agreement between the university’s home country or state and Hungary.
The reasoning behind the ECJ ruling against Hungary was tortuous and convoluted — and the ruling could hardly be seen otherwise after it struck down the normal, and rather standard, requirements imposed by Hungary. George Soros’s Central European University in Budapest was the only university that found itself in non-compliance with Hungary’s higher education law. Apart from the surprising invocation of WTO rules instead of EU law by the ECJ, its dubious reference to the Charter of Fundamental rights was all the more curious considering the charter clearly states that its provisions “are addressed (…) to the Member States only when they are implementing Union law”, and that “the Charter does not extend the field of application of Union law beyond the powers of the Union or establish any new power or task for the Union, or modify powers and tasks as defined in the Treaties.” Brussels’ different legal standard for conservatives? Although such provision was willingly ignored by the European Commission and the ECJ in the case of Hungary, it might be the reason why Brussels is now failing to intervene, and rightly so, in the case of Spain’s new education law, known as the so-called Celaá law. But more probably, the reason why the European Commission is turning a blind eye on Spain’s education law after having paid so much attention to Hungary’s higher education law is that Hungary has a right-wing, moderately conservative government while Spain is governed by a coalition made up of socialist, far-left populists and communists who profess the kind of progressivist, pro-social engineering, anti-national, and pro-immigration ideology close to the hearts of a majority in Brussels. As far as individual liberties are concerned, though, the Spanish law is much more dangerous than the Hungarian one. Protests against the new Celaá education law erupted in Madrid, Spain, on Nov. 22
The Celaá law will make it much more challenging to create new private schools as it eliminates the criterion of “social demand.” It also introduces obstacles for local governments to cede land for the construction of such schools, and it deprives all non-coeducational (usually Catholic) schools of public funds. Given the importance of education in shaping the minds of young people, and to a broad extent their political leanings, governments across Europe and politicians in Brussels likely view education law as a powerful tool for gaining political influence over the long-term. This might be why other conservative governments, such as Poland’s, have r un afoul of Brussels when it comes to education laws. Spain’s new law promotes a strongly leftist ideology. Apart from favoring public schools at the expense of private ones, Spain’s Celaá law replaces the optional ethics classes that were meant for pupils who did not attend catechism classes with a compulsory course of “civic and ethical values” for all. WHO-style “emotional and sexual education”, which was reserved for 12-years-olds and older pupils up to now, will become compulsory for all children from the age of six. There is strong resistance of Spain’s left-wing government’s new education law, with tens of thousands protesters across the country gathering to protest Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez’s government has also vowed to overturn laws passed in regions governed by the center-right, which allow parents to oppose their children attending classes and activities that are not part of the official curriculum or when they are run by external contributors, such as activists from LGBT organizations. The Spanish center-right and right-wing opposition, from the very liberal-centrist Ciudadanos party to the liberal-conservative Vox through the center-right People’s Party ( Partido Popular , PP), all see in the Celaá law a clear attempt at eliminating private schooling, which is very popular in Spain, and at indoctrinating all Spanish children with the “civic and ethical values” of the left. Opposition leaders call the new law “totalitarian”, and thousands of Spaniards have been gathering at protests, filling streets in their cars all over Spain several times in the course of the past weeks because of restrictions linked to the Covid-19 pandemic. The protesters’ and opposition leaders’ cries in favor of freedom of education have been met with disdain on the part of Education Minister Isabel Celaá, a socialist who is famous for having claimed that children do not belong to their parents but to the state.