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Soros-based university says it has been kicked out of Hungary as an autocrat tightens his grip

Griff Witte Europe-focused correspondent with great experience in the Middle East and South Asia December 3 at 8:05 BERLIN –…

A US university established for the quarter since training a new generation of leaders and teachers After the collapse of communism in Central and Eastern Europe, Monday said it had been kicked out of its home in Hungary.

The rejection marked one of the safest signals until the date of autocratic return to the country, and the region, after decades of relative freedom. This is the first time a university has been forced out of an EU nation.

Central European University has long been considered among the world’s finest primary schools and attracts students from all over the world and is widely regarded as the best in Hungary.

But the university, founded by the Hungarian US financier George Soros, has also been the goal of almost two years of a higher government that has systematically consolidated control and marginalized deviation.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban has been particularly ruthless in attacking everything associated with Soros, whose open and liberal philosophy is the opposite of the orbital, nationalist and nativistic perception that Orban celebrated.

The University said Monday that there was a left election but moving its primary campus to Vienna next year after the Orbans government refused to recognize an agreement that would allow the school to continue to recognize new students in Budapest.

“Any expulsion of a reputable university is a flagrant violation of academic freedom,” said the university to announce the move. “It’s a dark day for Europe and a dark day for Hungary.”

The university, which has double accreditation in Hungary and the United States, has had a robust, bipartisan backing in Congress where members expressed concern at the risk of academic freedom and precedent for an American institution kicked out by an American alliance.

Despite the Soros accession, CEU was once again defended by the Trump administration. President Trump’s ambassador arrived in Budapest on a mission in Budapest this summer, he said broker an agreement and retain CEU in the country.

But last week, when it became clear, there would be nothing, Ambassador David B. Cornstein broke with earlier American policy on the matter. In an interview with Washington Post, he refused to criticize Orban – as he described as his “friend” – and sued the guilt of Soros, which he said had been insufficiently convincing of the government.

Corns Tein – An 80-year-old New Yorker who made his fortune in jewelry, gaming and telemarketing companies and is a close friend of Trumps – compared the university’s situation to his own experience of selling jewelry at department stores.

“I was a guest in another guys store,” he said. “The university is in another country. It would pay to work with the government.”

He also minimized the university’s importance – compared his 1,500 students negatively with what he described as much higher campus in Ohio State and Michigan – and seemed confused by why the fate of the school had generated broader interests.

“It has nothing to do with academic freedom,” he said.

The government’s campaign against the CEU began in early 2017, shortly after Trump’s inauguration. The legislation passed this spring by the Hungarian Parliament seems to specifically target the university by requiring all foreign schools to have academic programs in their homelands.

CEU created a program at Bard College, in New York, and it was certified by authorities. But the Hungarian government did not recognize the arrangement, and last month, government officials signaled that they would never.

With the legislation that entered into force on January 1, the university leaders said they had to move to Vienna to continue to allow new students.

“The government has done injustice against its own citizens, hundreds of kids who work and study at CEU and thousands of Hungarian alumni and their families,” said Michael Ignatieff, President of the University, in a statement released Monday.

Hungarian officials have said that the university has not followed all aspects of the law, even though they have refused to spell out publicly exactly how.

Zoltan Kovacs, a Hungarian civil servant in Hungary, said in an interview that he believes the university’s decision to move is a bluff and that it will eventually return.

“CEU will remain,” said Kovacs, who is a CEU alumni.

Outside the Hungarian Parliament last week, students began a last attempt to force the government to change. They performed white tent fabrics and held a “learning” where professors conducted their lessons around the clock in the freezing cold at the end of autumn in Hungary.

Zalan Jakab, a 23-year-old Hungarian, who was a part of the students, said in his home region that most people hear little about the university in addition to the government’s propaganda and consider CEU “as an evil place”.

The protest, he said, was designed to show the public the true face of a school that is “top of the league in Hungary in terms of education quality.”

But in the end, it was not enough to make a difference in the university’s fate.

“It’s a big loss,” said Jakab, studying political science. “I’m ashamed that my government has done this.”

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