School law in­creases Or­ban feud with Soros

The Washington Times Daily - - WORLD - BY LORNE COOK AND PABLO GORONDI

BRUS­SELS | Hun­gary’s prime min­is­ter on Wednesday dis­missed con­cerns about his coun­try’s new higher education law af­ter the Euro­pean Union launched le­gal ac­tion amid fears the leg­is­la­tion is aimed at shut­ting down a univer­sity founded by lib­eral Hun­gar­ian-Amer­i­can bil­lion­aire phi­lan­thropist Ge­orge Soros.

While in­sist­ing that Hun­gary re­mains com­mit­ted to the Euro­pean project, Vik­tor Or­ban also launched a sting­ing at­tack on Mr. Soros, brand­ing him “an open en­emy of the euro” sin­gle cur­rency who wants to open Europe’s flood­gates to a mil­lion mi­grants a year.

Ear­lier, Euro­pean Com­mis­sion Vice Pres­i­dent Valdis Dom­brovskis said that the EU’s ex­ec­u­tive arm has sent a “let­ter of for­mal no­tice” to Mr. Or­ban’s govern­ment, which is a first step in le­gal ac­tion, over the education law ap­proved ear­lier this month. The com­mis­sion be­lieves it could in­fringe on Euro­pean rights to pro­vide ser­vices, but also rights re­gard­ing aca­demic free­dom and the right to an education.

The Hun­gar­ian govern­ment has one month to re­spond, and based on Bu­dapest’s re­ac­tion, the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion will con­sider what steps to take next.

The pres­i­dent of the Soros-backed Cen­tral Euro­pean Univer­sity, Michael Ig­nati­eff, said the stand­off means that his cam­pus in Bu­dapest “has a gun pointed to its head” and might not be able to ac­cept new stu­dents af­ter Jan. 1.

But speak­ing to EU law­mak­ers in Brus­sels, Mr. Or­ban said the law is only a “mi­nor amend­ment” that ap­plies to not just CEU but to 28 uni­ver­si­ties, with the aim of in­tro­duc­ing uni­form rules, clos­ing loop­holes, in­tro­duc­ing trans­parency and end­ing priv­i­leges.

Mr. Or­ban has said the CEU is “cheat­ing” be­cause it is­sues diplo­mas ac­cepted both in the U.S. and in Hun­gary, where it has been op­er­at­ing since 1993. The univer­sity is ac­cred­ited in New York state but has no cam­pus there. The na­tion­al­ist pres­i­dent says this gives it an un­fair ad­van­tage over other Hun­gar­ian uni­ver­si­ties, but has de­nied that he wants to shut it down.

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