Published: Wed, December 05, 2018
Global News | By Blake Casey

Soros-founded university says 'forced out of Budapest'

Soros-founded university says 'forced out of Budapest'

"In the case of the CEU we are being forced out of the country", said Liviu Matei, the CEU's pro-rector, at a press conference.

CEU's statement is the culmination of a years-long struggle between Hungarian-born but US-based Soros, who promotes liberal causes through his charities, and the nationalist, anti-immigrant government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

However it is the institution's US-accredited masters programmes which have done most to attract students from over 100 countries to the CEU, which has always been regarded by the nationalist Orban as a hostile bastion of liberalism.

Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Leon Botstein, said Vienna and the Austrian federal government had welcomed CEU "with open arms" as part of their commitment to academic freedom and research.

For almost three decades CEU has been a gateway to the West for thousands of students from ex-communist eastern Europe, offering US-accredited degree programmes in an academic climate that celebrates free thought.

In addition, in accordance with the law of the foreign educational institution has to operate not only in Hungary but also in the country where it was established.

CEU, founded in Budapest in 1991, says it has complied with all the new regulations set by Orban's government, which has refused to sign off on an already agreed document with the State of NY that would allow CEU to stay.

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"CEU has been forced out", said CEU President and Rector Michael Ignatieff in a statement.

According to the university, the Hungarian government has "made it clear" it will not sign an agreement it negotiated in 2017 with the State of NY, which would ensure CEU's operations in Budapest for the long term.

A university backed by billionaire philanthropist George Soros is being "forced out" of Hungary as the country's government refused to sign an agreement allowing it to stay.

He said that "this makes it clear to everybody that the whole affair is nothing else, but the usual political bluff by Soros which the government does not wish to deal with".

In 2017, Orban's then-chief of staff, Janos Lazar, said the education conflict was tied to Soros' advocacy for migration and refugees.

Mr. Ignatieff, former leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, and a prominent writer and academic, said his task now is to lead the institution to "safety". In June, the parliament approved the "Stop Soros" law, which allows criminal penalties of up to a year in prison for those convicted of aiding asylum-seekers.

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