BREAKING NEWS Kenneth Pitts sentenced for his involvement in 2018 death of Anita Oswald Full Story

Democracy is under assault in Hungary. America's voice is crucial

If there is one painful lesson that we have learned in the 100 years since the end of World War I, it is tha...

Posted: Nov 12, 2018 10:18 AM
Updated: Nov 12, 2018 10:18 AM

If there is one painful lesson that we have learned in the 100 years since the end of World War I, it is that democracy's friends on both sides of the Atlantic must speak up when it is under assault. That is why we are today joining with a bipartisan group of more than 60 eminent American leaders to warn that the Hungarian government is about to hit another milestone in its move away from democracy -- by ejecting a leading university from its capital. And we are calling for a tough American response.

The Prime Minister of Hungary, Viktor Orban, seems set on evicting from his country the renowned Central European University (CEU), a joint American and Hungarian institution of higher education. He has denied CEU the certification it needs to continue to operate and, unless the Hungarian government relents by December 1, CEU will be forced to relocate to Vienna. While chances of a deal are slim, Michael Ignatieff, the president and Rector of CEU said, "Even at this late hour, we are still seeking a solution that allows us to remain in Budapest..."

Continents and regions

Eastern Europe

Europe

Hungary

Democracy

Education

Education systems and institutions

Forms of government

Government and public administration

Higher education

North America

Political Figures - Intl

Politics

The Americas

United States

Viktor Orban

CEU was founded after the end of the Cold War, when Europeans and Americans came up with the idea for an "international university that would help facilitate the transition from dictatorship to democracy in Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union," according to its website.

As a result, Central European University was established in 1991. CEU is based in both Budapest and in New York (at Bard College). From its inception, CEU served as an American-style university that helped us to build better bilateral ties based on shared values. It has granted degrees in history, philosophy, political science, business and law.

Nonetheless, Orban has lashed out at CEU for some time, launching a series of draconian measures that has finally culminated in the demand that the university leave the country. In April 2017, the Hungarian Parliament changed the Higher Education Law to drive CEU out. The law was dubbed "Lex CEU" by some because it was seen as a transparent effort to make CEU's operations illegal.

In September 2017, Hungary seemed to reach an agreement with New York State, where the university is registered, but after Orban's sweeping election victory the following spring, CEU was told not to expect a deal to be signed.

Orban claims to be fed up with CEU's liberal ideology. He has been outspoken about his determination to tear down liberal democracy. "The new state that we are building is an illiberal state, a non-liberal state," Orban said.

We acknowledge that vibrant and sometimes raucous debates take place between liberals and conservatives over matters such as curricula and faculty hires. Yet higher education institutions of all stripes are part of a foundation essential to democracy.

There's more, though. It seems clear that Orban has also been motivated by the fact that his foil, George Soros, helped to found CEU. In seeking re-election last spring, Orban needed an enemy, and so he used Soros as his bogeyman in a campaign redolent of anti-Semitism. And after Orban won, he vowed "moral, political and legal revenge."" against his enemies, with Soros, who he sneeringly called "Uncle George," and CEU prominent among them.

To its credit, the Trump administration has not gone along with this. It has followed its new policy of "principled engagement" by reaching out to Hungary as an ally, while signaling that CEU was an important priority. Ignatieff, in a press release, thanked the US Ambassador to Hungary David Cornstein as well as the Department of State, Congress, the Governor of New York, and the New York State Education Department for their vigorous efforts to secure an agreement certifying CEU for continued operation in Hungary. The #IStandWithCEU hashtag is even on the embassy website.

Still, despite the fact that this is a priority for the US and the bilateral relationship, Orban seems determined to deal the final blow on December 1. If and when Hungary kicks out CEU, it would be a black eye for the administration, and a bewildering rebuke for America from a key Central European ally.

That is why as co-chairs of the bipartisan Transatlantic Democracy Working Group, we are joining with a bipartisan group to take a stand for CEU, academic freedom and, in a broader sense, for democracy. In our statement, we call for consequences for the bilateral relationship because of the failure to act in good faith with the United States to protect our joint interest in the CEU.

We commend the stance our government has taken so far. For the US government understands, as do we, that this is not only another tear in Hungary's democratic fabric. With CEU, Orban is banishing an institution with roots in the United States.

We believe the State Department and White House should publicly state that they are downgrading the level of meetings below the current level of regular access with Hungarian officials. And Secretary of State Mike Pompeo should hold off on meeting again with his Hungarian counterpart, as he did in May, until Hungary demonstrates reciprocal principled engagement. The Trump administration must also publicly censure Hungary for its attack on academic freedom -- the latest in a series of assaults by the Orban government on Hungary's democratic culture.

We also urge Congress to stop the fawning public appearances with Orban, exert oversight in holding hearings, passing resolutions and appropriating increased assistance to independent civil society and media in Hungary.

We do not propose any of this lightly. Hungary is a NATO ally. We believe, however, that the software of the alliance is as important as the hardware, and that if NATO is to sustain itself, it must remain a club of not only shared interests, but also of common democratic values.

The US has so far stood with Hungary as an ally while pressing Orban to do the right thing on CEU. In shuttering the university, Orban is defying our goodwill. We fear the government of Hungary would be taking another serious step toward democratic bankruptcy as well.

Terre Haute
Cloudy
53° wxIcon
Hi: 57° Lo: 52°
Feels Like: 53°
Robinson
Cloudy
52° wxIcon
Hi: 56° Lo: 51°
Feels Like: 52°
Indianapolis
Cloudy
53° wxIcon
Hi: 54° Lo: 50°
Feels Like: 53°
Rockville
Cloudy
52° wxIcon
Hi: 56° Lo: 51°
Feels Like: 52°
Casey
Cloudy
51° wxIcon
Hi: 55° Lo: 51°
Feels Like: 51°
Brazil
Cloudy
53° wxIcon
Hi: 56° Lo: 51°
Feels Like: 53°
Marshall
Cloudy
53° wxIcon
Hi: 55° Lo: 50°
Feels Like: 53°
Cloudy and Cool
WTHI Planner
WTHI Temps
WTHI Radar

WTHI Events

 

Illinois Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 7 p.m. CT)

Cases: 1677939

Reported Deaths: 27996
CountyCasesDeaths
Cook63537311208
DuPage1083221378
Will913951127
Lake801071088
Kane68469872
Winnebago41117561
Madison40130597
St. Clair36293598
McHenry34762330
Champaign27034197
Peoria26956368
Sangamon25767287
McLean23033219
Tazewell20666331
Rock Island18872361
Kankakee17943249
Kendall16221113
Macon15321251
LaSalle15052287
Vermilion14418201
Adams13167152
DeKalb12169134
Williamson12069174
Whiteside8307183
Jackson809394
Boone794883
Coles7895124
Ogle757989
Grundy739486
Franklin7335115
Knox7297169
Clinton7129102
Macoupin6965106
Marion6929144
Henry664277
Effingham6618100
Jefferson6561143
Livingston598498
Stephenson585493
Woodford577192
Randolph5560100
Christian535682
Fulton527376
Monroe5252103
Morgan5079100
Logan495374
Montgomery491881
Lee478960
Bureau443191
Saline434469
Perry433775
Fayette431264
Iroquois421777
McDonough374161
Shelby348748
Jersey336253
Lawrence333433
Crawford333230
Douglas328137
Union307248
Wayne304363
Richland280057
White280033
Hancock274035
Clark266540
Cass266330
Pike265258
Edgar260149
Clay259254
Bond257425
Ford245659
Warren244266
Carroll236838
Moultrie235733
Johnson228832
Wabash217219
Jo Daviess216129
Massac215850
Mason214452
Washington212528
De Witt206230
Greene205340
Mercer204736
Piatt202314
Cumberland190226
Menard172313
Jasper161321
Marshall141521
Hamilton134122
Schuyler108310
Brown106610
Edwards104218
Pulaski104212
Stark81628
Gallatin7889
Alexander72512
Scott7126
Henderson70614
Calhoun6932
Hardin60616
Putnam5654
Pope5536
Unassigned1622433
Out of IL130

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 8 p.m. ET)

Cases: 1005797

Reported Deaths: 16449
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1353572119
Lake663011164
Allen57820801
Hamilton46296464
St. Joseph44311613
Elkhart35888509
Vanderburgh32214480
Tippecanoe27898258
Johnson25056445
Hendricks23854359
Porter22890365
Madison18724409
Clark18540252
Vigo17449303
Monroe15242199
LaPorte15124250
Delaware15043261
Howard14719289
Kosciusko12285147
Hancock11709175
Bartholomew11602180
Warrick11287189
Floyd11082215
Wayne10965253
Grant10051220
Morgan9457176
Boone8913116
Dubois8263131
Dearborn820893
Henry8200152
Noble8017106
Marshall7916135
Cass7528121
Lawrence7447171
Shelby7176119
Jackson697289
Gibson6584115
Harrison647591
Knox6418106
Huntington6385100
DeKalb630699
Montgomery6252110
Miami592298
Putnam580078
Clinton574971
Whitley564255
Steuben560676
Wabash5324104
Jasper529879
Jefferson510297
Ripley499886
Adams481576
Daviess4670114
Scott438574
Greene424496
Wells423088
Clay422060
White418164
Decatur4164102
Fayette406187
Jennings386661
Posey376644
LaGrange357678
Washington357651
Randolph344499
Spencer339543
Fountain334760
Sullivan328652
Starke316470
Owen314170
Fulton309467
Orange293564
Jay284145
Franklin265443
Perry265352
Rush261332
Carroll261133
Vermillion257754
Parke231126
Pike228843
Tipton227559
Blackford192642
Pulaski183457
Crawford159223
Newton157848
Benton150217
Brown146147
Martin138219
Switzerland134911
Warren121016
Union107016
Ohio84513
Unassigned0540