The Orbán government is dragging its feet on the issue of Central European University

Over the last few months I have received several letters from readers of Hungarian Spectrum, wanting to know more about the status of Central European University, an English-language graduate school founded by George Soros, the bogeyman of the Orbán government. Unfortunately, I was unable to give any update on the fate of CEU because not much happened from May to late September.

Between February and May 2017 I devoted seven posts to the Hungarian government’s efforts to get rid of Central European University. It seemed that the decision to launch a frontal attack against the university was reached sometime after the surprise victory of Donald Trump, which promised, at least as far as Viktor Orbán was concerned, amicable relations between the new Republican administration and the illiberal state of Hungary. Viktor Orbán most likely thought that the new Republican president would be only too happy to assist him in getting rid of the university that was established by George Soros, a well-known supporter of his opponent, Hillary Clinton.

Well, it didn’t turn out that way. Viktor Orbán managed to get himself and Hungary into a big mess. The new White House was not willing to turn against a well-known university, so the Orbán government had to save face somehow. This process has taken months. The first bitter pill the Hungarian government had to swallow was that there was no way to “negotiate” with the American federal government about the fate of CEU, on which the Orbán government insisted. By the end of June the Hungarian government realized that there was no way out. They would have to negotiate with New York State’s Democratic governor, Andrew Cuomo.

By the end of September the hurdle of establishing an American campus of Central European University was surmounted through an agreement with Bard College, located in New York State. Bard is well known for its close ties with Hungary and Hungarian causes in general. For example, it volunteered to receive 325 Hungarian refugee students in 1956-1957, who spent nine weeks on its campus. The fiftieth anniversary of this event was celebrated in 2007, and many of these former students returned to the college to remember the time they spent there. In recent years, many Hungarian youngsters have received Hungarian Heritage scholarships to attend Bard College. And yes, George Soros has made sizable donations to the college.

Thus, an arrangement between these two institutions was an obvious answer to Hungary’s insistence on the physical presence of CEU on U.S. soil. Yet the government was silent until a few days ago, when László Trócsányi staged an “extraordinary press conference.” He announced an amendment to the law on higher education. The modification consists of a one-year extension of the deadline for CEU to come into full compliance, from January 1, 2018 to January 1, 2019.

Below is the university’s reaction to this latest “modification” of the law.

♦ ♦ ♦

Dear Members of the CEU Community,

CEU welcomes any initiative that reduces uncertainty, but the Minister of Justice’s proposed extension of the deadline prolongs the uncertainty while walking away from a solution that lies at hand.

An agreement between the State of New York and the Government of Hungary guaranteeing CEU’s existence is ready for signature. Resolution of this matter is now up to the government. The government can simply sign the agreement it has already negotiated.

In line with the agreement, CEU has signed an MOU with Bard College to undertake ‘educational activities’ in the State of New York. We have already initiated a program registered with the New York State Board of Education that should be operational within weeks. Thus there exists no obstacle to an agreement bringing this whole episode to a conclusion.

Hungary has already signed an agreement with the State of Maryland in respect of McDaniel College. Failure to sign an agreement with the State of New York in relation to CEU can only be perceived as discriminatory.

Extending the deadline and failing to sign the agreement are a step backward. CEU wants to move forward. CEU calls on the Government of Hungary to sign the New York-Hungary agreement without delay and re-affirms its commitment to fulfill all obligations, defend its freedom and continue its presence as a respected member of Hungarian and international academic life.

Michael Ignatieff, CEU President and Rector

Liviu Matei, CEU Provost and Pro-Rector

October 15, 2017
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Observer
Guest

Negotiations with a gypsy horse trader look pretty much like these.

The never ending, ad hoc amendments of various law at the drop of a hat prove the fascust nature of the Orbán regime.

Ferenc
Guest

For more on CEU and OV&Co see my yesterday’s comment – http://hungarianspectrum.org/2017/10/14/fidesz-and-gender-inequality/#comment-139368

Questions about the mentioned McDaniel College:
-anybody know more about and/or has any experience with it?
-why did it agree and sign so quickly?
-why didn’t it show solidarity with others (against law at hand), by e.g.waiting with signing till more were able and then sign together?

Ferenc
Guest

Interesting ‘old’ news from CEU (2017.Oct.09): “CEU Welcomes German Chancellor Spokesperson’s Call for Signing of NY-Hungary Agreement”
https://www.ceu.edu/node/20201

Marty
Guest
Orban can only be forced to accept the continuing operations of CEU in Hungary. Orban would never change his mind voluntary, he will never compromise. He set out to destroy CEU and eradicate any and all perceived liberal influence from Hungary. This is a test. If the US is unable to “persuade” Orban to change his mind (to once and for all abandon his plans about CEU) then it will be clear to the world, certainly to the region, that the US is now impotent at a time when Russia and China are getting more assertive by the day. This is because it is clear to everybody that if Russia (or China) wants something Orban immediately, without hesitation performs. Orban wouldn’t even dare to think about harming possible Russian interests or investments, however small, in the first place. Apparently if the US wants something there comes the famous peacock dance. Orban has all the time in the world, he has nerves of steels. Let’s see what do the Americans have? Orban is allied with Russia by sending a clear message to the region: the US got weakened, lost its mojo but Russia is ascending. One can’t trust the US because… Read more »
Guest

“One can’t trust the US because it cannot even defend US investments in a country which is an ally on paper.”

Is that your opinion?

Istvan
Guest
President Trump supports for profit Universities as does his Secretary of Education Ms DeVos Marty. CEU is based on a not for profit model. See http://www.politico.com/story/2017/08/31/devos-trump-forprofit-college-education-242193 Moreover Marty, Trump and DeVos have absolutely zero interest in Post graduate studies for Central Europeans in the liberal arts. Trump doesn’t like liberals in general and that is well known. In the USA Trump doesn’t particularly care for liberal-arts majors either, because the man in charge of Trump’s higher education policy during his campaign, Sam Clovis, repeatedly said that Trump wants to make it harder for liberal arts majors to secure student loans in the USA. The basic theory is a major like Eva’s in history is impractical in the competitive job market and poses a greater likelihood of not generating the income necessary to pay off federally backed college loans which are required here for seven in ten college students. Marty Trump most likely does not see the CEU in anyway as a US investment within Hungary, it’s doesn’t generate any profit to return to US investors. Trump does not believe the US gains influence around the world by promoting cultural ties, but rather by making money, and utilizing of military power.… Read more »
Marty
Guest

I meant investment in a broader sense. You put x million dollars into creating something which the local government then orders to shut down (via tricky/impossible legal conditions).

This case is about protecting an investment even if it’s not a for profit operation, even if education is not a traditional investment.

Believe me Elon Musk will consider the CEU case when he decides about where in the CEE to set up his new Tesla plant.

Istvan
Guest

That would be Marty more less a cultural investment in terms of the promotion of democratic capitalism in Central Europe. Trump sees that as irrelevant, authoritian capitalism is just ok with him as long as American investors can make money.

This is why Trump is so comfortable with Putin. But he doesn’t grasp that the Russian model, or gangster capitalism in Hungary really is in the long run an incapatable model with US economic hegemony and a rival to it. The economic nationalists live in a bubble and want nothing to do with real global strategy.

North Korea and Iran are easy targets for Trump, but he has zero vision of what the US would do with these na
-tions if we overthrew their governments or nuked them. Because he lacks any national global strategy at all which is scaring the hell out of many in Congress and in the US military. There is even rumbling of invoking the 25th amendment against him see http://www.newsweek.com/trump-impeachment-resign-25th-amendment-684912 Right now the 25th amendment option is a long shot, but that could change.

Marty
Guest

Trump is mad and the American establishment must realize that the game is played differently.

People (governments) are extremely smart about any perceived changes in influence, whom to conform to, whom to suck up to, whom they can disregard etc. People very quickly pick up any signs about such changes. They will not miss the signs that the US is having trouble defending a significant American-backed project when at the same time it’s clear that Putin can call Orban 3 am in the morning (or Lavrov’s people call Szíjjarto’s people) and that’s that.

The signs are everywhere that the US is on the decline (from the Philippines to North Korea) and that China and Russia are on the rise at least in terms of international political influence.

Trump may be OK with that but I’m not sure the establishment is. After all Congress just increased spending on the military by 700bn USD (rather than making college free or spending it on something else) on top the current numbers.

CEU is just another small theatre in this new cold war. Observers both in Moscow and in the CEE are very curious about its outcome.

Observer
Guest

Istvan,
Trump doesn’t see anything, but himself, he comes out as a dangerous sociopath.
And come to think that the US had the Peace Corps! What a farce to watch now!

Marty
Guest

I have no set opinion. If the US can protect CEU then it’s still influential but if it can’t then it’s clearly weakened. The jury is still out I guess.

The US however can be said to have weakened already because if it was really, really powerful then Orban wouldn’t even have dared to think about touching CEU in the first place.

wrfree
Guest

Istvan is correct that POTUS doesn’t see CEU as an ‘investment’. On the other hand whether the President realizes or not the US is ‘at war’ with Magyarorszag not technically on battlefields but in the realm of liberal ideas. I’d suggest if Orban gets his way in the CEU affair it would be a defeat and litmus test on further US erosion of influence in the ideological sphere.

Where previously the commies constantly pushed their strategies in opposition to the US we now have the illiberalists picking up the mantle attacking freedoms and putting their stamp on the how-to’s of educational endeavors. This in a way is even more insidious than before as they come in the guise of democrats. Not too sure POTUS understands all those the sheep in wolf clothing. He is not the sharpest tool in the US political shed. All he appears to care about is making money.

bimbi
Guest

Marty, @ 4:07 a.m.

“Orban can only be forced to accept the continuing operations of CEU in Hungary. Orban would never change his mind voluntary, he will never compromise. He set out to destroy CEU and eradicate any and all perceived liberal influence from Hungary. This is a test.”

Because:
a) Orbán is a wanker and is only concerned with his own feelings and
b) “Christians” aren’t in the race – the most persecuted group targeted by this miserable mafia regime are the so-called “Liberals”.

1956
Guest

Orban allied with Russia? Wrong!
Orban set up by Russia? Correct!

Ferenc
Guest

OT
Elections in Austria 2017.Oct.15 – preliminary result (current status Oct.15, evening) at https://wahl17.bmi.gv.at/ (in Hungarian http://index.hu/kulfold/2017/10/16/ausztria_sebastian_kurz_ovp_fpo_heinz-christian_strache_zoldek_spo/
Final results only expected on Thursday, when counting of all ‘votes by post’ (seen figures of 900.000 being 16% of total!) will be finalized.
Actual summary: OVP biggest party and biggest winner (+8%), FPO and SPO both still going for 2nd (prel.diff.0.7%), Greens out of parliament (under 4%)
In general clear movement to the right (FPO and OVP together preliminary +13% of votes).

Looking to the division over the country, most votes in states:
Carinthia (bordering Italy and Slovenia): FPO (right, populists)
Vienna and Burgenland (bordering Hungary!): SPO (center-left, social democrats)
Other states: OVP (center-right, christian democrats) in Tirol strongest

Very peculiar from Hungarian point of view is Burgerland, where social-democrats are the biggest (note: don’t know for previous elections), while just over the border, in western Hungary, F&K have been the bigger party since (afaik) at least 2002…

PS: parliament by proportional representation (with threshold of 4%)

Ferenc
Guest

OT
Dutch reporter leaves after 6 years the UK: “How I learnt to loathe England”
Just a quote: “the class divide and the class fixation, as well as an unhinged press, combine to produce a national psychology that makes Britain a country you simply don’t want in your club. [about UK leaving EU]”
Long read at https://www.prospectmagazine.co.uk/magazine/how-i-learnt-to-loathe-england
PS: curious for opinion of HS readers in the UK

petofi
Guest

The proliferation of ‘droppings’ by one commenter–four by Ferenc on October 16th–is the tell-tale sign of sickly trolldom…

Aida
Guest

No, Petofi, you are mistaken. The article about the English is very interesting and sadly it is accurate. Decades of nationalist English crap has produced the catastrophic result. I hope the EU27 will have the good sense and the balls to tell their English friends to leave on really hard terms. They deserve nothing else. If it leads, as is almost certainly will, to a hard Marxist Labour government, so be it.

bimbi
Guest

Aida, @ 1:50 p.m.

petofi mistaken? Never, petofi is never mistaken. As to “OT” comments, they may occasionally be useful (I have been guilty myself) but rather than a string of these would it not be more interesting to have comments on the topic in hand?

As to the forthcoming “Marxist” government in Britain – Bring It On! The current UK government has been utterly divisive and cruel in its tax, housing and social policies. You must have been over-dosing on Mr. Murdoch’s newspapers or the ‘Daily Wail” if you call Corbyn’s policies “Marxist”. By the way, Brexit is a tragedy – for Britain and for the European Union, both.

Observer
Guest

Petofi

Come on, what up with you?
The contents are pretty meaningful, useful. Don’t read Ferenc’s post if you have a problem with the frequency.

wrfree
Guest

By now Mr. Ignatieff with each passing day must realize that Magyarorszag has with its actions shown its contempt towards the ideals of CEU. At this point it is quite evident that Magyar leadership is not interested in one iota of openess, of free inquiry and lastly international understanding. All these actions symbolically act like the crucifix to Dracula. And Dracula feels the CEU ‘pain in the neck’.

Magyarorszag today: walking its lair in the dead of night slowly sucking the future life out of Europe. Their fear is exposed and extremely palpable from the unstable and creaking castle battlements. One Dracula and too many Renfields in this horror show. Too many tricks. Don’t expect treats. In nomini patris et fili et spiritu sancti Amen…. as the omens fill the air.

bimbi
Guest

wrfree, 7:50 a.m.

Sloppy. Take a step back and consider the difference between “Magyarország” and the sick puppeteer pulling the strings of government of its current loathsome government.

No, Viktor Orbán is not Magyarország and Magyarország is not Viktor Orbán –
much as his lap-dog followers might like you to believe otherwise. There will be life beyond Orbán and his mafia thievery.

wrfree
Guest
bimbi… I hope so as regards ‘life beyond Orban’. But things don’t look to promising as the ‘Magyar Exodus’ pieces bear out. Those shown exemplify the Magyars who want and seek change. They want more out of life since they believe the country cannot provide it or diesn’t want to. Apparently they have made the decision to leave. But unfortunately they in fact are really the individuals the country needs to effect change. They are the ones indeed who have the drive to offer a future. They are at bottom the potential engines to set Magyarorszag on a more positive course. And they are leaving for what they see as better pastures in both their economic and personal lives. Why live in the shades of Kadar? As a ‘kulfoldi’ though perhaps I am missing some deep essences about the Magyar character in your thought about ‘life after death’ oops sorry that’s ‘life after Orban’. Maybe they will have the reserves to come back. But at this point it looks touch and go. In my estimation Orban is no different than Trump in that both are in the process creating deep dystopian visions as a result of their ‘bull-in-china shop’ governing.… Read more »
Member

The CEU “campus” at Bard reminds me of the tricks Hungarian convenience shop owners employed to get around the “no opening on Sunday or at night unless an owner is on site” crap.
Some got around this by finding five trusted employees who enjoyed working at night. Each of them purchased a 20% stake in the shop, with the stipulation that they could take no dividends. Should they decide to divest, the original owner would have the right to repurchase the stake.
In other words, this is nothing but a bureaucratic pain in the butt resulting from Orban’s megalomania and the commitment of +/- 2 milllion voters to keep fueling it.

wrfree
Guest

Re: Bard

Great place to learn about the one so named and our modern day Caesars…

‘What a terrible era in which idiots govern the blind’.
Julius Caesar

The literary icon of all time cuts to the quick. Next up . …banning anything Bardish and hitting spot on truth.

Member

Well said.

wrfree
Guest

To tell you the truth I should be there mingling with all types of Magyars. I would like to understand more being again walking around in the country of my parents. Perhaps one day soon.

Guest

A bit OT again:

We’ve heard so much about “Soros and the Freemasons” etc – of course most Hungarians (and people in other countries too) don’t know anything about them. The German magazine Test (comparable to Consumer Report in the USA) just reported that a German Freemason lodge did not get tax-exempt status, because the German court said that their policy of only accepting males which belonged to some Christian church was discriminatory.
No woman, no cry – i e no tax exemption … :)!

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