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Canada expresses ‘serious’ concerns about ‘lex CEU’ amendment

Canada is “seriously concerned” by the Hungarian Parliament’s recently passed legislation on higher education, which it says may “endanger academic freedom in Hungary and the operations of the Central European University (CEU),” Isabelle Poupart, Canadian Ambassador to Hungary, Slovenia and Bosnia & Herzegovina, said in a statement issued today.

“While we welcome the commitment of Hungarian leaders on Saturday to engage about amendments to the education law, we urge them to quickly move from words to meaningful action,” the press statement says.

The statement notes that after the legislation was passed - which has been widely criticized for appearing to single out the CEU in particular and has triggered an infringement procedure launched by the European Commission against Hungary - “strong and sustained mobilization” has been witnessed in Hungary and internationally in support of CEU and academic freedom in the country.

“In Canada, academics and educational institutions, such as the University of Alberta, University of Quebec in Montreal, University of Toronto, Western University, and the Canadian Association of University Teachers, have expressed their concern for the future of the CEU,” the statement adds.

“As a long-time friend and ally of Hungary, Canada encourages a constructive dialogue that could pave the way for a timely and effective resolution of this issue,” the statement emphasizes. “The CEU is an institution of great international repute and includes a number of Canadian students and faculty in its academic community, comprising people from 130 nations. Canada strongly supports the essential role that universities, NGOs and a free press play in fostering open, prosperous, inclusive and democratic societies.”

State news agency MTI reports that the Hungarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade summoned the Canadian ambassador to the ministry on Friday to explain her claims relating to CEU.