Members and supporters of the bipartisan Transatlantic Democracy Working Group (TDWG) of former U.S. government officials, national security experts and scholars are the latest to declare support for Budapestʼs Central European University (CEU), denouncing the Hungarian governmentʼs steps to drive the institution out of the country.
The document is signed by 68 members and supporters of the group, including world famous political scientist Dr. Francis Fukuyama, according to a press release sent to the Budapest Business Journal.
“A crackdown on academic freedom is one of a series of dangerous developments in Hungary under the leadership of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán,” reads the statement. “The campaign against the CEU is a highly symbolic move against a vital institution founded to promote the transatlantic values of democracy, openness, and equality of opportunity.”
Describing the governmentʼs actions as “a serious blow to academic freedom in Hungary,” the statement notes that CEU enjoys “support across the political spectrum in the United States and at all levels of our government.” It acknowledges the efforts of U.S. officials to find a solution to the impasse, particularly U.S. Ambassador to Hungary David Cornstein, and describes the unwillingness of the Hungarian government to “reciprocate in a principled manner” as “an insult that damages the future of U.S.-Hungarian relations.”
“When an illiberal leader takes adversarial action against an institution with U.S. roots, the U.S. must acknowledge this as a breach, say so publicly, and hold the government to account through clear, responsive action,” the statement adds. “As a member of NATO, we must also ensure that Hungary is accountable in upholding democratic freedoms; NATO’s strength depends on it.”
The statement alludes to “consequences for the bilateral relationship,” and calls for the U.S. “to stand tough against Hungary’s illiberal challenge and continue to publicly hold the government of Hungary accountable, including from high levels in DC, for its attack on academic freedom, democratic institutions, and principles.”
The full statement and list of signatories can be found here.
In late October, the Board of Trustees of CEU announced that incoming students for its U.S.-accredited masterʼs and doctoral programs will study at its new Vienna campus from the academic year 2019-20. The board authorized the move as of December 1, 2018, as the Hungarian government has still not signed a draft agreement with the State of New York allowing CEU to freely operate in Hungary as a U.S. institution chartered in New York State.