On Monday, CEU Rector Michael Ignatieff announced that CEU would be leaving Budapest as no compromise was reached with the Hungarian government. Many have accused the Hungarian government of harming educational independence and academic freedom by deliberately forcing CEU’s exit, but the government says that parts of the “Soros university” will stay, so the story is only a “bluff by Soros”.
On Monday, the US ambassador to Hungary, David B. Cornstein, said he was very disappointed in the decision as he had been working tirelessly to reach an agreement. He claimed that ahead of the deadline set by CEU, he had tried to meet with Viktor Orbán but was refused.
Leading newspapers have detailed CEU’s departure and all generally agree that the Hungarian government undermined CEU. In an editorial issued ahead of the final announcement, the Washington Post criticized Cornstein and speculated “that President Trump’s ambassador came to Hungary on a mission to save CEU” but failed. Cornstein, instead of “shaming an increasingly authoritarian Orbán, sought to charm him” by overlooking evidence of infringement of liberties and human rights.
Opposition parties have condemned the ousting of CEU
The head of Jobbik’s education cabinet, Koloman Brenner, argues that even though Jobbik is far from being on the same page with Soros and CEU’s status might be a matter of dispute, ousting the college is a “communist-like exercise of power.” It is obvious that with his third term, Orbán is now beginning to crack down on independent institutions.
István Hiller, deputy speaker of parliament for the Socialists (MSZP), said that the decision to oust CEU from Budapest is nothing but “a political decision,” and went on to call the affair “a violation of academic and scientific freedom.”
The deputy group leader of the leftist Democratic Coalition (DK), Gergely Arató, said the decision carries with it the message that Hungary does not value knowledge, innovation or rational thought. He declared that a system which closes university faculties is “nothing but a dictatorship.”
LMP MP Péter Ungár argued that a personal conflict between Orbán and Soros is ultimately responsible for the current state of things.
Satirical party MKKP responded with the meme below, making a reference to Orbán’s controversial stadium projects:
Former CEU student and Secretary of State for International Communications and Relations of the PM’s Cabinet Office, Zoltán Kovács, repeated the government’s position:
The Soros university is leaving but staying. It’s common knowledge that a significant number of its courses will still be held in Budapest. This is nothing more than a Soros-style political bluff, which does not merit the attention of the government.
Rózsa Hoffmann, former Secretary of State for Education, said that it was not the government that ousted CEU, but that CEU was the one who chose to leave.
Lajos Kósa said he is certain the university won’t leave Budapest as “the CEU from New York” had never been in Budapest in the first place.
EU politicians are “disappointed”
Fidesz-KDNP backed EPP Spitzenkandidat, Manfred Weber, also expressed his disappointment:
Extremely dissapointed by the refusal of the Hungarian government to agree with @ceuhungary on their double degree program. It is unacceptable that a university in EU today is forced to move elsewhere with their curriculum. #CEU
Meanwhile, the Mayor of Vienna, Michael Ludwig, said he is proud to welcome CEU and promises that “it can breathe the air of freedom” without any political restrictions. Likewise, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said that CEU is a “positive gain” for the Austrian capital. Nevertheless, his coalition partner and leader of radical nationalist FPÖ, Heinz-Christian Strache, criticized the move and labeled CEU a “wanderer institution” and insisted that, by all means, it would have to comply with Austrian law.
featured image: a demonstration for CEU; via Népszava