Hungary should talk with Soros-founded school

12 April, 2017, 02:50 | Author: Celia Hoffman
  • BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI  AFP  Getty

The changes have already passed parliament but demonstrators are calling on President Janos Ader not to sign them into law.

The legislation has fueled controversy over Central European University, which was founded by Hungarian-born investor and philanthropist George Soros in 1991 to train a new generation of democratic leaders after communism. The issue has thrust Budapest back into global headlines, with critics at the very highest levels across the world claiming Orban continues to damage democracy.

Mr Orban has accused NGOs funded by Mr Soros of fuelling Europe's refugee crisis, and threatening Europe's security and identity by encouraging the arrival of large numbers of Muslims.

However, Ader - a close confidante of the PM - was unnmoved.

A bill signed Monday by President Janos Ader sets new conditions for foreign universities in Hungary, some of which seem aimed specifically at CEU.

Hungary faced criticism from Washington and Brussels on Tuesday over a new law they believe targets a Budapest university founded by US financier George Soros that is viewed as a bastion of independent thinking in eastern Europe. The letter extols CEU's global reputation in the social sciences and humanities; stresses the importance of its academic independence; and charges that the legislation is discriminatory in effect and the results would "endanger the academic freedom vital for the CEU's continued operation in Budapest and set a risky precedent for academic life in other countries".

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Students and teachers of the Central European University hold a portrait of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban (L) as they protest in the 1st district of Budapest with their sympathizers on April 9, 2017. "We will oppose this legislation to the full extent of the law". The university now enrolls more than 1,400 students from 108 countries.

Orban's plans for an "illiberal state" contrast with Soros' "open society" ideal. Amendments to Hungary's higher education law approved this week could force it to close or move.

The U.S. State Department has expressed its concerns about the legislation and the university's ability to continue operating in Hungary.

While the government denies that, Orban regularly blames Soros, who funds groups that seek to promote human rights and government transparency, for trying to undermine him.

A law expected to be passed in May would force nongovernmental organizations getting more than $24,500 a year from overseas to register with authorities.

George Soros pictured ahead of the start of his five-day-long lecture at the CEU in Budapest.

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