Hungary’s parliament votes to shut down Central European University

Starting January 1st, 2018, Budapest’s Central European University (CEU) will no longer be permitted to enrol new students in any programs, unless an agreement is reached between the United States government, the State of New York and Hungary’s Orbán government no later than September and unless CEU opens a new campus in the U.S. A total of 123 MPs voted for the bill, widely referred to as Lex CEU, and 38 opposition MPs voted against it. All of Fidesz voted in favour of the bill, while the Hungarian Socialist Party (MSZP), the Politics Can Be Different party (LMP) and 7 independent MPs voted against it. Both the Jobbik party and the Democratic Coalition chose not to vote–the latter because it is boycotting all parliamentary proceedings.

The requirement that President Donald Trump’s administration negotiate with Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s government on the fate of CEU is a poison pill in the newly passed bill, as the American federal government has no jurisdiction to negotiate in what is a state-level matter. But there is another requirement in the bill which CEU will almost certainly not be able to meet and certainly not within a mere six months: Central European University must effectively establish a campus in the United States if it wishes to continue operations in Hungary.

Hungarian President János Áder has five days to sign the new piece of legislation or to send it back to parliament for review or else request judicial review from the Constitutional Court. CEU students and supporters are appealing to Mr. Áder to refuse to sign the bill and to send it instead for review to the courts.

Minister of Human Capacities Zoltán Balog who presented the bill to Parliament explained why the legislation was not, in his mind, an attack on academic freedom:

“The existence of a strong, autonomous and internationally-recognized university is in Hungary’s interests.  But it is not in our interests to have players in the background who are conspiring against the democratically elected government or for example to support Soros-organizations. Soros’s organizations are not above the law.”

Mr. Balog then added that George Soros was engaged in a “worldwide smear campaign” against Hungary, noting that the current bill would “uncover the power of the network.”

Fidesz MP Mónika Dunai cynically suggested that George Soros should spend his time lobbying the Trump White House if he wants to save CEU and added that the Hungarian opposition underestimates President Trump, if it believes that the US leader cannot reach an agreement with Hungary before September. Socialist MP Gergely Bárándy responded by noting that shutting down CEU is too high a price to pay, simply because Mr. Orbán wants to invite himself to the White House.

Bernadett Széll of LMP called Mr. Orbán a “puffed up pocket dictator” and added that the government has crossed a red line with this legislation. Széll also believes that Mr. Orbán is willing to put everything on the line for President Trump to notice him and extend an invitation to Washington, adding that the prime minister is even willing to exact revenge on Hungarian youth, in order to achieve this goal. Ms. Széll also added that what Fidesz is doing is reminiscent of the darkest days of communism.

Immediately prior to the vote, Együtt MP Szabolcs Szabó, who sits as an independent, delayed proceedings for just over a minute, when he disrupted parliament with a loud siren. Fidesz has announced that Mr. Szabó will now face a penalty for disrupting parliament.

István Hiller (MSZP), a former Minister of Education, reminded Parliament that Austria is ready to offer CEU a new home, and wondered why having the university present is not a “burden” for the Austrians, when it seems to be for the Fidesz government. Indeed, the Deputy Mayor of Vienna announced that the Austrian capital would warmly welcome CEU, should it decide to leave Hungary. The rector of the University of Klagenfurt, who also chairs the Conference of Austrian Rectors, commented that Vienna, Graz or Klagenfurt would all be ideal locations for CEU, should it be forced to shut down in Budapest. The Mayor of Vilnius, who happens to be a CEU graduate, extended an invitation to CEU to relocate as well.

The Constitutional Court may still rule that the bill is discriminatory, in that sections of it are clearly designed with CEU in mind. The European Court of Human Rights may rule against it as well, if CEU decides to take its case there.

The pressing problem, however, is that the ban on admitting new students as of 2018 and the drawn-out uncertainty around CEU is effectively a death sentence for any university seeking to attract new students and keep talented researchers and professors.

 

31 Comments

  1. Shame on the dictator!
    Shame on Hungary!
    Shame on the European Union!

  2. On April 4, 2017, the world is witnessing the 2nd liberation of Hungary by Russia.

    On April 4, 1945, the Russian Red Army liberated the country from the last remaining elements of pro-German, Nazi resistance. That liberation was the start of a 45 year long period of subjugation to a Russian led, anti-liberal dictatorship.

    On April 4, 2017, Hungary was liberated from liberalism, by another Russian dictator. The new Russian leader is Vladimir Putin, and his local henchman this time around is not Mátyás Rákosi, but another anti-liberal fraud-artist, by the name of Viktor Orbán.

    Budapest is now, for the second time since the end of WWII, the happiest illiberal barrack inside the Russian sphere of influence. George Faludy, the impish Hungarian born Canadian poet must be spinning in his grave.

  3. scary shit. pure dictatorship. im suprised hungarians are ok with that. like wtf?

    • The Hungarians are NOT OK with this shit, the majority 57% dared say they want change of government, i.e. they want to get rid of the Orban mafia. Add those who didn’t dare say it for understandable reasons.

  4. Pingback: Orbán vs. Soros: další krok na cestě k upevnění moci – Noviny.cz

  5. Pingback: Parlamentul Ungariei a votat legea conform căreia Universitatea Central-Europeană va fi închisă din 2018 - #diez

  6. Pingback: Le Parlement Hongrois vote la fermeture de CEU : quels recours possible ? – #IstandwithCEU – France

  7. Soros is an American crusader with a questionable agenda. No matter how much a failure US interventionism has been in the Middle East, Americans like Soros simply cannot bring themselves to break out of the interventionist box. They remain convinced that the United States has no choice but to remain mired in the ongoing failure, death, and destruction in that part of the world. Hungary and other European countries have to deal with the situation while the US take a few hand-picked refugees who suit their needs.

  8. Pingback: Soros-funded university in Hungary facing closure following parliament vote | TravelWireNews

  9. a CEU graduate says:

    Let’s stop being emotional and start doing some crisis management instead.

    I suggest to consider relocating CEU to Sremski Karlovci (just off Novi Sad) — a Serbian centre of learning in the then-Hungarian part of the then-Austrian Empire since mid-18th century (multiculturalism being one of CEU’s forte’s).

    Also, since Vojvodina is officially multilingual, at least some of the non-teaching Hungarian-speaking CEU staff could function in Sremski Karlovci for the fitst year or two, until the University is fully reformed to its new surroundings.

  10. Pingback: Soros-funded university in Hungary facing closure following parliament vote | NewZSentinel

  11. Diana Osborne says:

    Closing CEU would only penalize the past, present and future students and not any of its donors. Closing it would blemish Hungary’s world wide reputation.

  12. Another CEU alumni says:

    1. The title is fake news. CEU is not shut down since it is an American institution. It can move out or comply. But not shut down. It can get around the bill by spending lots of money. It’s gonna be expensive, not impossible. Soros has plenty, won’t even feel it.
    2. This is a war by proxy. Soros is under the impression that if he has money he can do anything. He is almost completely right. The hardcore leftists employed there on the other hand are just a bunch of loud nobodies, and they now learn that poking the bear is dangerous. Kudos to Orban for proving that to them.
    3. Hungary and Budapest lose big time in revenue and prestige if the University is forced to relocate. Hence i still believe today was just a show of force and a deal will be made.
    4. CEU had a lot of issue lately in attracting students. This publicity is good publicity for them. They probably enjoy this visibility.
    5. I know for a fact that in 2011 there were discussions to move CEU to Bonn. The reason was that many professors from across the ocean believed eastern Europe to be a sort of wild west and did not want to come/relocate to Hungary. The option never went away. It may be possible that the uni will use these events as an excuse to move without being blamed for the relocation out of pragmatic purposes. Just saying

    • Another fidesznik

      You must be this little, round headed young guy (what’shisname) from Fidelitas, who disappeared after several disastrous appearances on ATV in 2012-13. At least it seems exactly the same pathetic nonsense and flat lies mix.

  13. Pingback: The Specter of Fascism: Hungary’s parliament votes to shut down Central European University – Radical Political Economy

  14. Misleading information in this article. CEU is clearly not a Hungarian institution. Never was. It’s not being closed down for no good reason, but because for 26-yrs it has avoided the rules and laws which other schools must follow. Not just in Hungary, but all countries. A university which is accredited in another country, who is lead by a former politician and party leader of another country, who receives most of it’s financing from overseas is simply not a Hungarian university. It’s not being forced to close. It’s being forced to comply with the same rules and laws that other universities must. If it can’t and closes, then that is the school’s fault.

  15. Mis and some of the other trolls. Please note. George Soros is NOT on the Faculty of the CEU, and never has been a faculty member. He lives in the US, and is way past retirement – 86 years old. He has no say into who teaches at the institution and on what subject matter. The operations of this institution are run acording to the principles of academic freedom. CEU has been evaluated by independent professional bodies as the highest ranked University in Hungary. The rest is proverbial BS, especially those spewed by one of the so called CEU alumni above, who fancies himself as George Soros’ psychiatrist. The situation is simple. Hungarians have been socialized into thinking for at least 100 years, that liberalism is an invention of world Jewry, for the express purpose of destroying the Hungarian Christian nation state. This was Bishop Ottokár Prohászka’s narrative, of Gyula Gömbös, of Horthy and Szálasi, the country’s Arrow Cross leader, who was driven by blind hatred of the Jews. The reason why Lex CEU was introduced and passed without any debate is, that CEU’s founder is a liberal American Jew, therefore, he must be an enemy of Hungary, Christianity and the nation state. Everyone should just calm down – traditional anti-Semitic, anti-liberal hatred is alive and well in Hungary.

  16. Mis: “because for 26-yrs it has avoided the rules and laws which other schools must follow”.

    If You parrot the lies of the Orbáns, they still won’t become true.

  17. Prasenjit Biswas says:

    The basic issue is, how can a State have power over the functioning and jurisdiction of a university? Parliament can set up a university but it cannot have a power to abolish it. When a State overpowers a university, that State is internally broke and does not qualify to exist on earth.The Hungarian ruling party also should know that it will bite the dust when there is a backlash from the West for this crime against civilization and humanity.

    • Prasenjit B

      The basic feature of this kind of state, let’s call it fascist, is to control everything down to school curricula, sports clubs, theaters, etc.
      This can get idiotic at times, directorship://index.hu/sport/sportgeza/2017/04/01/futballkabare_szijjarto_elmagyarazza_miert_lett_nagykovet_szollosi/

  18. Why are the trolls again being given a pulpit by HFP? There isn’t a rational or decent word to be said to justify Orban’s latest abomination. Does HFP see its role as providing yet another megaphone to the systematic disinformation system that the Orban media have iron control over in Hungary? Will HFP be giving airtime to flat-earthers, holocaust-deniers, climate-change-deniers and friends of Kim Jong-un too? The CEU shut-down requires serious, informed discussion, not tit-for-tat tattle with trolls paid to generate exactly that smokescreen.

  19. The only body that can put the brakes on Fidesz autocracy is the European Union, but they have no intention of doing so. The shameful EPP won’t even give Orban a slap on the wrist for this most recent travesty. Meanwhile, the 2000 to 3000 CEU protesters at parliament on Tuesday had the best intentions in the world, but they naively used this opportunity to rally around the completely impotent EU’s flag and managed to have it fly from parliament for a few short minutes before being removed. My message to these students: don’t hold your breath, the EU will do nothing to help. The only way to put things right is to stay on the streets, keep protesting, keep having sit-ins and REFUSE TO LEAVE until this regime gives in.

  20. Stevan Harnad

    Your heart is in the right place, but your desire for censorship, and one dimensional thinking is misplaced, even if the dimension you are attached to is one I agree with.

    Any medium that stands for freedom of expression must tolerate dissent, and competing ideas. This social medium has no funding, has no employees, to edit the comments. If I may use a non-academic phrase, that will no doubt ruffle your feathers, shit happens.

    When the competitive ideas drown out our ability to speak, we should indeed protest. The few, pathetic trolls above have not pushed us to the brink – yet. Please show a bit of tolerance, and cry wolf at the appropriate time.

  21. JOZSEF M. KOVACS says:

    Very biased article, with the intent to misslead the reader. There is no intention in the law to close down the C. E. U.
    The CEU is at once a Hungarian and a USA accredited Institution, without a USA Campus. The law conserns only the USA accreditation.
    The CEU is not the only Hungarian based forreign University involved, there are 27 other institutions also covered by the law. All the infractions, as defined by the law can be rectified by sincere negotiations. It is a kind of “When you are in Rome do like the Romans” kind of law, but it will not deny you your rights and you can nontinue to exist

  22. JOZSEF M. KOVACS says:

    Dear Observer, may I ask you to retain your urges to give away FASCIST labels at will.

  23. @ Jozsef Kovács

    Please note: Among the basic principles of the rule of law is that parliament cannot pass retroactive laws, that it must treat everyone equally, and must allow full scrutiny of legislative proposals. Orbán has broken each of these fundamental principles with its Lex CEU and what you are doing is lending cover for his rule of law violations.

    First: CEU has operated in Hungary for 26 years in conformity with Hungarian law. This year, even the Hungarian ministry of education has formally admitted this. Orbán’s April 4th law criminalizes, retroactively, what CEU has been permitted by law for 26 years.

    Second: Lex CEU is a modification to Hungary’s laws governing institutions of higher learning, and singles out CEU for special and punitive treatment. CEU as an academic institution is not treated equally under the law, not even in comparison with any of Hungary’s other privately owned institutions of higher learning.

    Thirdly, there was no scrutiny permitted by the government of the legislation prior to its enactment. The law was tabled and passed in 48 hours without consultation with anyone. It was not submitted to the appropriate parliamentary committee as required by parliamentary traditions, civil society was not permitted to prepare a position, the mass media is muzzled.

    Lex CEU is a classic illustration of how autocracies work, how to trample underfoot the rule of law with the support of the likes of you. Please be better prepared the next time you come here to defend the indefensible.

  24. JOZSEF M. KOVACS says:

    Why do you not try to work towards a solution.
    Your reasoning would be shot down at any university debating group. Without question there is something serious happening. It will depend on both sides to solve it. Like it, or not the governmat has enough support to give reason to his interests.
    Get rid of the pedestrian arguments, work seriously to get an acceptable solution for the sake of all those who love CEU and expect a great future based on what they have learned there.

  25. Christopher Adam and many of the people around him are the exact opposite of “Hungarian nationalists”. This could be because they want to position themselves in one of the far left internationalist regions of internal and external Hungarian political dialog, or because they are the willing tool of cynical anti-Hungarian global forces. In a civil wall they would be the first to be put ——————. Just a personal opinion.

  26. It looks like HFP is beginning to hit home. The amount of trolling (especially fake ID trolls) is rising here as well. On pro-CEU Facebook posts, the increase is now staggering, and demonstrates, that Mr. Orbán’s learning rapidly from Putin’s cyber-warfare techniques, the bots are kicking in, big data algorithms are flying high and wide, Roger Mercer and Cambridge Analytics are cashing in. Lets brace ourselves, against the riff raff. 🙂

  27. @ Kovácsjózsi

    “Why do you not try to work towards a solution.”

    I just did. I put your comment into my blender, and put the solution out on my windowsill for the birds. Do you fly by night ?

  28. @ Mátrai Gézuka

    “Christopher Adam and many of the people around him are the exact opposite of “Hungarian nationalists””.

    You better believe it we’re different, Gézuka. It’s not enough to claim to be the messiah. You have to be able to walk on water. Every time your “Hungarian nationalists” set out to do so, you sink beneath God’s wisdom like a stone. Cut mustard, instead of cheese !

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