Hungary is replaceable. Budapest is replaceable. While anyone who knows and loves the Hungarian capital would be saddened to see the Central European University forced to go, those of us who have had our fill of seven years of Hungary’s slide into a wildly corrupt autocracy also applaud Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern’s decision to begin high level negotiations aimed at moving CEU to Vienna. According to the APA Austrian news agency, Chancellor Kern has started negotiating with the representatives of George Soros about relocating CEU to the Austrian capital. Zsolt Enyedi, CEU’s Pro-Rector for Hungarian affairs, confirmed that shutting down Budapest operations and moving to Vienna is an option. Mr. Enyedi added that the university still aims to fight the punitive legislation approved by Parliament on Tuesday.
“If political decision-makers have decided that they want to shut us out of the country, then we are left with no choice but to take this option seriously,” noted Mr. Enyedi. He added that CEU is at the centre of an ideological battle, adding that “it appears that Viktor Orbán likes nothing that comes close to liberalism, tolerance or progressive thought.”
Liberal Austrian opposition MP Beate Meinl-Reisinger commented that moving CEU to Vienna would be a “grand opportunity” for the capital city.
As of Thursday afternoon, as the author of this short update awaits his flight at Toronto’s Billy Bishop Airport, there is no news from President János Áder’s office about whether he will return the bill unsigned to parliament, or send it for review to the Constitutional Court or indeed sign off on it. What we do know, is that Mr. Áder daughter attended an American international school that functions within a legal framework almost identical to that of CEU. The same can be said for Prime Minister Orbán’s daughter, Ráhel, who studied in Switzerland.