CEU leaves Budapest after 20 months of struggle with Hungarian government

Source: Xinhua| 2018-12-04 05:11:17|Editor: yan
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BUDAPEST, Dec. 3 (Xinhua) -- After 20 months of battle with the Hungarian government, the Central European University (CEU) has announced to leave Budapest and will have its U.S.-accredited programs transferred to Vienna, the capital of Austria, from September 2019, according to its president here on Monday.

"CEU has been forced out. This is unprecedented. A U.S. institution has been driven out of a country that is a NATO ally. A European institution has been ousted from a member state of the EU," CEU President and Rector Michael Ignatieff said at an press conference.

"Because Hungary's Lex CEU forbids (CEU) to accept new students after Jan. 1, 2019, CEU is forced to announce today that it will launch all U.S.-accredited degree programs in Vienna in September 2019," said Ignatieff.

In April 2017, the Hungarian government re-regulated foreign institutes of higher education operating in the country. The new law required an international treaty with the government of the home country of a university operating in Hungary.

Foreign universities are accordingly also required to have campus in both Hungary and their home country. That is why the CEU launched activities in the campus of the Bard College, New York.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said several times that the future of CEU depended on talks and an accord between the American and Hungarian governments.

Ignatieff has repeatedly said the bill was aimed directly against CEU, and started preparations in the summer to move the headquarters of the University from Budapest to Vienna in case of a lack of agreement with the Hungarian side.

A few weeks ago, CEU announced that if the Hungarian government refused to sign the agreement by Dec. 1, they would be forced to move to Vienna.

On November 20, the Hungarian government gave an explanation on why it was reluctant to sign the accord necessary for the institution to lawfully continue its operations in Hungary.

"The Hungarian law requires foreign universities operating in Hungary to have campus in both Hungary and their home country," Peter Szijjarto, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade said.

"In the case of the CEU, for the time being, we do not see it as proven by ourselves," he added.

CEU was founded in 1991 by Hungarian-born American billionaire George Soros, a political adversary of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who accused him of orchestrating the migration influx of migrants from the Middle East and Africa to Europe.