Statement on Central European University

Human Rights First condemned the Hungarian government’s decision to close Central European University (CEU), a top-ranked, graduate-level academic institution accredited in both Hungary and the United States. The Hungarian government refused to certify its continued operation by December 1, forcing the university to leave Budapest.

“The decision by the Hungarian government to force CEU’s closure reveals the Orbán Administration for what it is: a government willing to sacrifice not only academic freedom but also Hungary’s long-term foundation for economic growth in its bid to silence critical voices,” said Human Right’s First’s Melissa Hooper. “The people of Hungary, and of the region, will be worse off for this decision, which flies in the face of basic logic,” Hooper added.

Central European University is being forced to close its operations in Hungary following the Hungarian government’s adoption of a 2017 law that targeted the university. The law prompted an infringement proceeding brought by the European Commission.

The Hungarian government’s failure to negotiate in good faith with CEU parallels a consolidation of independent media under a government-controlled framework, attacks on NGOs that serve immigrant and refugee communities, and continued service to Russian foreign policy interests.

“U.S. Ambassador David Cornstein’s stated efforts to protect CEU were laudable, however the Trump Administration should have engaged earlier and communicated to Prime Minister Orbán that real consequences would result from a failure to honor the ongoing partnership with this well-respected enterprise. CEU’s unnecessary departure from Budapest warrants a reassessment of the U.S.-Hungary bilateral relationship,” added Hooper.

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