Attack against CEU may endanger Hungarian universities in Romania

Romania’s former prime minister, Victor Ponta, expressed his enthusiasm for planned legislation in Hungary, which endangers the future of Central European University in Budapest. Mr. Ponta, a Member of the Romanian Chamber of Deputies, indicated that he intends to propose a similar law, in order to restrict the activities of foreign universities on Romanian soil. This may serve as a wake-up call for Hungarians who are supportive of the Orbán government and its hate campaign against George Soros, as two Transylvanian universities that would find their operations in jeopardy are both funded by Hungary. These include Sapientia Hungarian University of Transylvania based in three Transylvanian cities and the Partium Christian University, located in Nagyvárad (Oradea).

The Social Democratic Victor Ponta promised to begin working on legislation that largely emulates that which is planned in Budapest and he is committed to working out the details of his proposal and submitting this to the Chamber of Deputies within one week. While Mr. Ponta has been congratulatory of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s policies as of late (including the highly controversial expansion of the Paks nuclear power plant in southern Hungary, financed through Russian funds), some journalists in Romania see ulterior motives behind the most recent announcement. Romania’s public broadcaster pointed out that neither Sapientia Hungarian University of Transylvania nor Partium Christian University operate based on a bilateral agreement between the governments of Hungary and Romania. It is true that in contrast to the CEU’s battle with the Orbán government, Sapientia and Partium Christian University receive funding from, and are tied to another EU member state, while Central European University has its charter in the State of New York. Yet the similarities are striking: Sapientia was established in 2000 with the direct involvement of the Government of Hungary, led by a younger Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, who was serving his first term in power. At the time, the historic Hungarian churches of Tranylvania (Roman Catholic, Unitarian, Calvinist and Lutheran) established a foundation with the goal of launching a private, Hungarian-language university. This was only possible through on-going, renewable public funding from Hungary.

Sapientia’s campus in Marosvásárhely.

The university’s main source of funding still comes from Hungary, including more than 2.2 billion forints per year from the Hungarian state, to be used for operating expenses, as well as 1.7 billion forints for capital investments and development. Sapientia now has faculties in Marosvásárhely (Târgu Mureș), Kolozsvár (Cluj Napoca) and Csíkszereda (Miercurea Ciuc). Sapientia has an annual enrolment of over 2,200 students and employs 369 professors, and more recently complements its undergraduate focus with postgraduate courses.

In Nagyvárad, Partium Christian University, initially established as a small Calvinist college, received accreditation from the Romanian legislature in 2008, allowing the university to grant degrees in theology, cultural studies, German language and literature, as well as social work. According to a budget document from 2014, Partium Christian University receives public funding from Hungary, as well as support from the Romanian state.

Partium Christian University in Nagyvárad

On Sunday evening, thousands of  students, researchers, teachers, other academics and activists will march from Corvinus University in Budapest to Parliament in Kossuth Square, in protest against the Orbán government’s attempts to legislate CEU out of existence. Those Hungarians who support the prime minister in his attack against the country’s most prestigious university should be careful what they wish for–some people in Romania are watching closely and are ready to follow the example.

6 Comments

  1. Orbán opened a can of worms by his hubris. His assault on civil society will come back to haunt him. He overestimated his influence on the new American government. The State Department, with the approval of the White House, published a highly critical press release. His initiative will accelerate the efforts of Congress, the FBI and the mass media to explore the cover his government gave to the collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian secret service. The attack on the CEU, as Romania is showing, will endanger the Hungarian University in Romania. The Hungarian government’s positioning of “the Jewish billionaire” Soros as someone who is personally trying to destroy Christianity and the nation state by encouraging the “Muslim hordes” to overrun Europe will be shown for what it is – a mere reheating of the type of hatred of outsiders, that thrived under Admiral Horthy’s rule, and led to the deportation and murder of 600,000 innocent Jews.

  2. There is no point of comparing the CEU and the Hungarian minority schools in Romania. The two countries have a bilateral agreement in protecting minority languages and customs etc. i.e. Hungary can fund cultural and linguistic developments, whereas the Romanian government can do the same in places for example like Gyula in Hungary.

    People like Ponta are confusing minority rights which the Romanian government promised in 1918. The CEU is NOT a minority University.
    Also, on the same token, Orbán would have targeted the ethnic German University (Andrássy University Budapest / AUB) operating in Budapest. A University which receives funding from 6 different countries/regions (Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg and Italian autonomous region Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol.)

    Ponta and the Romanian government would not have a leg to stand on legally, as they are comparing apples to oranges. Those two Universities you mentioned serve a minority of 1.3 million, larger than the population of Estonia, Montenegro, Lichtenstein etc.

  3. I don’t think you can shut down a university funded by another EEA member state and refer to the lack of international agreements. The US however is not an EEA member state.

  4. Norbert

    Could you explain the contradiction that is at the center of your opening paragraph ? “There is no point of comparing the CEU and the Hungarian minority schools in Romania” – when, your next sentence does exactly what you want us to avoid: “Hungary can fund cultural and linguistic developments, whereas the Romanian government can do the same in places for example like Gyula in Hungary.” ? I stopped reading after this, as would anyone with a brain larger than a walnut.

  5. @András

    You don’t seem to be able to differentiate between an American accredited University operating in Hungary and minority schools within the EU. Like I said, two different things.

    “I stopped reading after this, as would anyone with a brain larger than a walnut” Love the insult 🙂 It seems you are losing the argument. BTW, I didn’t know American’s have minority status in Hungary. Like I said, It’s not an official minority school where Hungary has any form of agreement with the USA.

    With a name like yours, Göllner, you ought to know the difference between minority schools and the CEU. Nice ethnic German name by the way 🙂 I am ethnic German and Armenian who is heavily involved in minority rights within the EU. I do know what I am talking about in terms of minority schools in the EU, compared to a non EU school. There are approx. 110 million people who live as minorities within the EU.

  6. Norbert, Norbert. I would love to help you but it’s late in the day. First of all. Please relax. I’m sure your brain is larger than a walnut, otherwise you wouldn’t be addressing me. Happy now ?

    As for your following discovery: “You don’t seem to be able to differentiate between an American accredited University operating in Hungary and minority schools within the EU.” You are bang on. I have no interest engaging in such a god boring exercise. What I’m interested in seeing is how Ponta will use Lex CEU, to shut down Sapienta – Hungarian University in Romania.

    If you’d like to think, that I’m losing the argument with you, be my guest. I’m here to make people happy. I’m a do gooder. 🙂

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