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U.S. concerned about proposed education law

The United States is “very concerned about the legislation proposed by the Hungarian Government yesterday that would severely impact the operations of the Central European University in Budapest,” David Kostelancik, Chargé d’Affaires of the Embassy of the United States to Budapest, said today in a statement sent to the Budapest Business Journal.

The U.S. Embassy building in Budapest.

Proposed legislation submitted to Parliament late Tuesday promises to clarify and tighten rules related to foreign institutions offering higher education in the country, which is thought may make operations impossible for the Central European University (CEU).

“The Central European University is accredited in the United States and Hungary, and it has employed and educated thousands of Hungarians. It is a premier academic institution with an excellent reputation in Hungary and around the world, and it stands as an important center of academic freedom in the region,” the U.S. Embassy’s statement notes.

“Moreover, the university is an important success story in the U.S.-Hungarian relationship, and it enjoys strong bipartisan support in the U.S. Government. The United States opposes any effort to compromise the operations or independence of the University,” the statement adds.

The rector of the CEU has voiced fears that the proposed law targets his institution, set up by Hungarian-American financier George Soros, and would lead to its closure. The Hungarian government has been repeatedly vocal in criticizing Soros and institutions and organizations tied to the businessman, who himself has voiced strong criticism of the Fidesz-led government.

Concerns also raised in Europe

The proposed law has also attracted the attention of European Union officials, having been discussed today in Brussels at the weekly session of EU commissioners.

Tibor Navracsics, the European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, briefed EC First Vice-President Frans Timmermans and other commissioners today, according to online news portal index.hu. Timmermans reportedly made a reference to the proposal before todayʼs agenda.

The European Commission has also reportedly contacted the Hungarian government on the matter, according to index.hu.