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Czech academics warn of Hungarian new university legislation

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Prague/Budapest, April 4 (CTK) – Czech educational and culture institutions have called on the Hungarian government of Viktor Orban not to implement its amendment to the university law that might threaten further operation of international academic facilities in Hungary, Iva Pisova told CTK on Tuesday.

They write in an open letter that the controversial amendment, which the Hungarian parliament passed on Tuesday, would lead to the closure of the Central European University (CEU) in Budapest and affect the work of foreign academics and researchers, Pisova, spokeswoman for the Faculty of Arts of Charles University in Prague (FF UK), said.

The CEU was founded in Prague in 1991 by George Soros, a U.S. billionaire of Hungarian origin, and it has operated in Budapest since 1996. Soros criticises Orban’s current government.

This discriminatory abuse of law is characteristic of undemocratic, authoritarian regimes that we expected not to return to Europe any more after the experience from the last century. The Hungarian government’s step is in line with the recent political and nationalistic purges at Turkish universities and the effort of the Russian regime to close the European University in St Petersburg, representatives of the Czech institutions write in their letter addressed to Orban, Zoltan Balog, who proposed the amendment to the university law, and CEU Rector Michael Ignatieff.

The letter’s authors point out that openness, freedom of research and international cooperation are typical features of the European approach to education and that the current steps taken by the Orban government run counter to this tradition.

The Czech academics add that if the Central European University had to end in Hungary, they would like to help re-open it elsewhere.

The letter was signed by representatives of UK’s three faculties, the dean of the Film and Television Faculty of the Academy of Performing Arts (AMU) in Prague and the directors of the Institute of International Relations, the Vaclav Havel Library, the Institute of Philosophy of the Czech Science Academy (AV CR) and the Association for International Affairs in Prague.

Thousands of Hungarian and foreign students, university lecturers and other people protested against the government draft amendment on Sunday.

It was supported by 123 MPs, 38 voted against it and the same number abstained from the vote in the Hungarian parliament on Tuesday.

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