BERLIN – An American university established a quarter-century ago educate a new generation of leaders and scholars after communism's collapse in Central and Eastern Europe said Monday has been kicked out of its home in Hungary.
The ejection marked one of the surest signs to date of autocracy's return to the country, and the region, after decades of relative freedom.
Central European University has long been considered among the world's finest graduate schools, attracting students from across the globe, and is the best in the world Hungary.
George Soros, who was founded by Hungarian American financier George Soros, has so far been the target for nearly two years of a right wing government that has systematically consolidated and marginalized dissent.
Prime Minister Viktor Orban has been ruthless in attacking anything associated with Soros, whose open and liberal philosophy is the antithesis of the illiberal, nationalist and nativist view celebrated by Orban.
choice to move to its campus to Vienna next year Orban's government refused to acknowledge that agreement.
"Arbitrary eviction of a reputable university is a flagrant violation of academic freedom," the university said in announcing the move.
The university, which has dual accreditation in Hungary and the United States, has enjoyed robust, bipartisan backing in Congress, where members expressed concern about the threat to academic Freedom and the precedent of a US Institution being kicked out by an American ally.
Despite the Soros affiliation, CEU what, for a time, even defended by the Trump administration. President Trump's ambassador arrived in Budapest this summer on a mission, he said, to broker agreement and keep CEU in the country.
But last week, David B. Cornstein, Ambassador David B. Cornstein broke with previous U.S. policy on the matter. In an interview with The Washington Post, he declined to criticize Orban – whom he described as his "friend" – and pinned the blame on Soros, who he said had been insufficiently acquiescent to the government.
Cornstein – at 80-year-old New Yorker who made his fortune in the jewelry, gambling and telemarketing businesses and was a close friend of Trump's – compared the university's plight to his own experience at jewelry stores.
"I was a guest in another guy's store," he said. "The university is in another country. It would pay to work with the government. "
So he minimized the university's importance – comparing its 1,500 students unfavorably with what he described as the larger campuses at Ohio State and Michigan – and appeared baffled by why the school's fate had generated interest.
"It does not have anything to do with academic freedom," he said.
The government's campaign against CEU began in early 2017, soon after Trump's inauguration. Legislation passed through a foreign-language school in a foreign country.
CEU created a program at Bard College, New York, and was certified by state authorities. But the Hungarian government said they never would.
"The government has done so", "the hundreds of thousands of people have lost their lives" who work and study at CEU, and thousands of Hungarian alumni and their families, "said Michael Ignatieff, the university's president, in a statement released Monday.
Zoltan Kovacs, a senior Hungarian official, said in an interview that he believes the university's decision to move is a bluff
"CEU is going to stay," said Kovacs, who is a CEU alumnus.
Outside the Hungarian Parliament last week, students staged a last-ditch attempt to change their minds to their minds. Clock in the freezing cold fall in Hungary.
Zalan Jakab, a 23-year-old Hungarian who was taking part in the study, said in his home region, the vast majority of people say, "as an evil place."
The protest, he said, is designed to show the public the true face of a school that is "the top of the league in Hungary in terms of educational quality."
Ultimately, though, it was not enough to make a difference in the university's fate.
"It's a big loss," said Jakab, who is studying political science.