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War of Words between Alex Soros and Gov’t about ‘Expulsion of CEU’

Péter Cseresnyés 2019.06.25.

At the Palace of Arts in Budapest (Müpa) Alexander Soros, son of George Soros, addressed the graduating class of Central European University (CEU). In his speech, he talked about the Hungarian government “banning” and “expelling” CEU. According to state secretary Zoltán Kovács, the claims made by Alexander Soros are untrue.

Though Alexander, who is the deputy chair of the Open Society Foundations (OSF), opened his speech stating he was in Budapest to congratulate the graduating class of 2019, his visit could be easily interpreted as a message towards the Orbán government. In his speech congratulating the gathered students, he also praised the whole CEU community for what it has endured over the past two years.

He emphasized that while the Hungarian government has claimed that CEU chose to leave Budapest, it is simply not true. “CEU has been banned. And as a result, effectively expelled from Hungary. This expulsion is part of a broader campaign to crush academic freedom and other liberties.” He also added that CEU is “not defeated”.

Government finds Soros’ son’s remarks ‘ironic’

In reaction to the remarks by Alexander Soros, Zoltán Kovács, the Secretary of State for International Communications and Relations, pointed out in a Twitter post, that while the son of George Soros says the Hungarian government “banned” and “expelled” CEU,  giving a speech at the CEU graduation ceremony, makes it clear that what he says is not true.

The conflict between Hungary and CEU, founded by George Soros, arose back in March 2017 when the government claimed it found “irregularities” in the operation of foreign-based universities. While it was not named at the time, it has been widely noted that the legislation specifically targeted one institution in particular: the Central European University.

The government stated CEU enjoyed an unfair advantage over Hungarian universities because it could award both a Hungarian degree and an American one despite admitting that it does not operate abroad.

Central European University’s Future Under Attack? Everything You Need to Know, from the Government’s Proposed Bill, to International and Hungarian Reactions

The University announced last December that they had to move to Vienna due to the terms of an adopted legislative amendment known as lex CEU. Michael Ignatieff, the president and rector of the university said : they were “forced out” of Budapest.

CEU claims that it has fully complied with the changed rules but the Hungarian government was still not willing to sign the international agreement guaranteeing their operation, so their US-accredited curriculum had no choice but to move.

The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) and the Constitutional Court of Hungary (AB) are also investigating the case of lex CEU.

In the featured photo: state secretary Zoltán Kovács. Photo by Noémi Bruzák/MTI.