Gov’t spokesman regrets ‘Soros’ lies’ deceive Germany

Analysis

wikimedia commons Niccolò Caranti

The Hungarian government “notes with regret” that the “lies” of George Soros have “proved capable of deceiving the German government,” government spokesman Zoltán Kovács told state news agency MTI, according to government website kormany.hu. Meanwhile the Central European University (CEU) has accused the government of “manipulating public opinion.”

Hungarian-born philanthropist and financier George Soros, founder of the Central European University. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Niccolò Caranti)

Kovács commented on concerns expressed by German deputy government spokeswoman Ulrike Demmer over the so-called “lex CEU” higher education amendment the Fidesz government tabled and passed in a fast-track procedure, once again making international headlines. 

Kovács termed it “regrettable that such statements are being made by a government as respected and responsible as that of Germany,” according to kormany.hu.

Kovács echoed the Fidesz stance that the amendment is set to “eliminate irregularities” and “put an end to an exceptional dispensation which has given an unfair advantage to one institution of higher education in Hungary – to the detriment of all the others,” while insisting that the conditions recorded in the amendment are not “impossible to fulfill.” He added that the Hungarian government is “open to entering into negotiations with its American counterparts on how the criteria can be met.”

Kovács himself has recently been highly critical in his comments about the university, despite the fact that he and CEU have a long history together. According to his publicly available résumé on the official website of the Hungarian government, he has received numerous CEU scholarships (1992-1993, 1995-1999). His qualifications also list an MA in History (1993), a PhD Scholarship (1996-1999), and a PhD in History (2002), all completed at the Central European University in Budapest.

CEU sees ‘political propaganda’

The words of Kovács have been repeatedly taken up by several Fidesz politicians. While officials of the governing party have numerously referred to the Central European University in their communications as “the Soros university,” CEU has accused the government in a press statement of “manipulating public opinion”, calling the government’s communication “political propaganda”.

“The fact that our university is not referred to by its official name but, alluding to the founder, is referred to as the ‘Soros University’, shows the statement is a piece of political propaganda,” a press statement from CEU begins.

The CEU press statement was issued as a response to a statement from the Ministry of Human Capacities on April 4 concerning the Central European University and Közép-európai Egyetem (its Hungarian name), which CEU believes “contains a number of inaccuracies and errors”. Thoroughly addressing six claims in the ministry’s statements that the university claims to be false - see the full statement here in English - CEU has urged the ministry once again to start negotiations with them, and to “stop the circulation of misleading information.”

‘Lex CEU’ law sparks protest

Following a major march and demonstration in solidarity with CEU last Sunday, thousands of protesters hit the streets again Tuesday in support of the university, demonstrating against the legislation passed earlier in the day by the Hungarian Parliament modifying the law on higher education, which threatens to make CEUʼs continued operation impossible, according to Hungarian online news portal index.hu. 

The Central European University has condemned Parliament’s passage of amendments to the law on higher education, claiming the legislation threatens academic freedom and vowing to contest its legality. The U.S. Embassy expressed disappointment with respect to the passing of the law, which has also been strongly condemned by academics around the world.

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