Washington openly snubs Viktor Orbán’s regime on CEU affair

This week started with embarrassment for Viktor Orbán’s regime and especially for Minister of Human Capacities Zoltán Balog, who experienced a thoroughly public snubbing by Washington DC on the on-going saga of the planned shuttering of Central European University. On Monday, Mr. Balog, whose gigantic and unruly ministry oversees the education portfolio in Hungary, told journalists of the Index news site that his government is awaiting a response from American Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos on the matter of CEU. As our readers will know, all along the Orbán regime has been pushing for direct negotiations in Washington DC, even though this is a state and not federal matter, under the purview of New York.

One day later, the U.S. State Department put out a brief statement in which it confirmed that the Trump administration would not so much as dignify Mr. Balog’s letter with a response.

The statement reads:

“The United States again urges the Government of Hungary to suspend implementation of its amended higher education law, which places discriminatory, onerous requirements on U.S.-accredited institutions in Hungary and threatens academic freedom and independence.

The Government of Hungary should engage directly with affected institutions to find a resolution that allows them to continue to function freely and provide greater educational opportunity for the citizens of Hungary and the region.

The U.S. Government has no authority or intention to enter into negotiations on the operation of Central European University or other universities in Hungary.”

The Orbán regime has confirmed on many previous occasions that it would not negotiate with Michael Ignatieff, the Rector of CEU, but only directly with Washington DC. Some regime representatives quipped that this would remain the case, up until the CEU leadership becomes synonymous with the leadership of the United States.

After the Washington’s embarrassing response became public, Mr. Balog entered into an irate written exchange with Index’s journalist, Sándor Joób, claiming that they has “ambushed” the day before and adding that Index apparently is not interested in any other matter, except for the CEU affair, when it comes to education in Hungary.

Zoltán Balog

“You are not a politician that we are targeting for an ambush. You are Hungary’s minister responsible for education, health care, culture, church and social affairs. You are also accountable to the public and you owe them real answers,” responded Mr. Joób, adding that the ministry has gone to painful steps to avoid answering questions on the CEU saga, which has now been dragging on for two months. The start of the new academic year is little over three months away and there is no resolution in sight.

We are just two days into this week, and Mr. Balog has received a lecture in the nature of American federal politics from the State Department and a lesson in accountability and media freedom from the country’s largest independent news publication.

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