Népszava: Hungary reluctant to sign agreement with CEU before April 8th election

March 8, 2018

George Soros's Central European University has been reaccredited
Photo: CEU / Zoltan Tuba

Translation of “Orbán and company slyly play for time in the case of CEU “appearing in the March 7th, 2018 online edition of  Népszava.

Central European University fulfilled the final condition set by the Orbán government by launching classes at its New York partner institute. And yet the Hungarian state still won’t sign the international agreement stabilizing its Budapest operation.

CEU started its daily operations in the United States of America, our paper learned. Thanks to a cooperation agreement concluded last October with the New York-based Bard College , the university founded by George Soros launched its first accredited course on economic matters at the Bard campus.  With this the Budapest institution has fulfilled the requirements of the Hungarian higher education law, notoriously known as Lex CEU, according to which only foreign universities with campuses in the country of their origin can operate in Hungary.

To date the New York state-registered CEU could only continue its activities in higher education within the walls of the Budapest Central European University (KEE).  Because the institution has been accredited by the United States, students studying in Budapest can obtain an American diploma in addition to their Hungarian one.  This is one of the most attractive things about the university, and precisely what the Hungarian government wanted to do away with with Lex CEU in the interest of tilting at the windmill of George Soros.  Because it did not have a New York campus, the Budapest institution did not fulfill the conditions of the law on higher education as modified by the governing Fidesz majority last April which numerous constitutional experts believe to be unconstitutional.

It had deliberately not founded a campus in its mother country, having been created in 1991 expressly for the purpose of bringing to European and primarily Hungarian students American education, as well as the spirit and environment of higher education there.  It was precisely this that the Orbán government wanted to deny European. students, including Hungarian students.  However, CEU did not give up, signing a cooperation agreement with Bard College last October which the New York State Department of Education quickly approved. In this way, the first joint course began this January, which according to our information, is to be followed by other courses in the US.

In spite of this, the Hungarian government is still dragging its feet, not wanting it to come out before the election that it had to agree with the “Soros university.”  When CEU announced last week that the Hungarian Accreditation Committee (MAB) had renewed the accreditation of the Budapest institution for five years, the Ministry of Hunan Resources quickly announced that this did not pertain to the American Soros-University.  It failed to mention that MAB acknowledged the connection between the Hungarian institute and the American system of higher education.

The launch of US instruction puts the future of the university in a different light. The president rector of the Budapest institution, Michael Ignatieff, announced when signing the agreement that with this every obstacle was removed, and all that remained was for the agreement between Hungary and New York State to be signed.

The Hungarian government is hesitating to take the step even though it has signed a similar agreement with other American universities active in Budapest, like McDaniel College. Instead, the government decided to extend the deadline for satisfying the new conditions by a year, that is, until January 2019.

We contacted the Prime Minister’s Office, the Foreign Ministry, and the Ministry for Human Resources to find out what was holding up the signing of the agreement.  We did not receive an answer from anyone.  From the Ministry of Human Resources announcement cited earlier, we learned that it is still examining the cooperation between CEU and Bard College.

The pending decision was taken despite the New York Commissioner for Education, Mary Ellen Elia, sending a letter to Prime Minister Viktor Orbán attesting to the validity of the agreement between the two institutions.