US concerned about Hungary's university law, says envoy

Kristopher Drake
April 13, 2017

The large crowd marched across a bridge over the River Danube, urging President Janos Ader to review the new law adopted by parliament last week that is bound to trigger the closure of the CEU.

Orban, who has vowed to end liberal democracy in the European Union country of nearly 10 million people, is stepping up a campaign to sideline independent voices a year before parliament elections that he's expected to win.

Right-wing Prime Minister Viktor Orban, whose ruling Fidesz party crafted the legislation, is viewed in much of Europe and beyond as an autocrat and a xenophobe who has long viewed the liberal internationalist Soros as an ideological foe.

The English-language CEU was founded by Hungarian-born billionaire Soros in the early 1990s, aimed at helping the region's transition from communism to democracy. Amendments to Hungary's higher-education law approved this month could force it to close or move.

"The Hungarian government doesn't want to close any university - neither Hungarian universities nor any of the universities belonging to Mr. [George] Soros", Palkovics said at a press conference.

Hungarian President Janos Ader said Monday April 9, 2017, in a statement that he has signed the bill setting new conditions for foreign universities in Hungary which is in line with the Constitution, and called on the government to “immediately” begin talks with the affected institutions to secure compliance with the new rules. The university now enrolls over 1,400 students from 108 countries.

Hoyt Yee, the Deputy Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs, will be in Budapest on Monday to meet with Hungarian government officials, in part to discuss CEU.

The law also calls for bilateral agreements between Hungary and the home countries of universities from outside the European Union on how to manage the institutions.

The government opposes the liberal outlook of both the university and many non-governmental organisations.

The bill has led to criticism from hundreds of leading academics worldwide as well as from the USA government and the European Union.

Hoyt said that, while the nature of the law could be debated, "it is going to be much more hard for the university to continue operating in Hungary".

Orban has said he is prepared "to negotiate with the United States" on the future of the university which has until January to conform with the new law.

"His name is perhaps the strongest example of those who support anything that weakens nation states, they support everything that changes the traditional European lifestyle", Orban said in an interview on public radio Kossuth, as cited by Bloomberg.

Last week, the government submitted a draft anti-NGO law, requiring groups receiving more than US$25,000 annually to register with authorities, itemize all financial transactions, and state publicly that they are foreign funded under Hungarian law.

Other reports by Ligue1talk

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