Soros school says being forced out of Hungary

Billionaire George Soros has clashed repeatedly with the nationalist government of Viktor Orban

Billionaire George Soros has clashed repeatedly with the nationalist government of Viktor Orban Credit PA

A university founded by Hungary-born American financier George Soros on Monday said it has been "forced out of" Hungary.

"In the case of the CEU we are being forced out of the country", said Liviu Matei, the CEU's pro-rector, at a press conference.

Ignatieff said fears for CEU's future in Hungary emerged previous year during Orban's re-election campaign in which the four-time prime minister frequently levied attacks at the Hungarian-born Soros.

Michael Ignatieff, the CEU president, described the move as a "dark day for freedom in Hungary" and said that it was "unprecedented that a USA institution has been driven out of a country that is a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally".

The university retains accreditation as a Hungarian university and will seek to continue teaching and research activity in Budapest as long as possible.

Ignatieff led the federal Liberals from 2008 to 2011, but left politics after losing his own parliamentary seat in a general election that saw the Conservatives secure a majority government.

CEU said in an announcement Monday it will move to Vienna, Austria, for the 2019-2020 academic year.

Michael Ignatieff, the institution's president and rector, said the situation was unprecedented.

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University officials said they jumped through the required hoops, opening a satellite campus in NY and signing an worldwide agreement - but Hungary never finalized the deal it negotiated.

A university funded by George Soros has warned of the "beginning of repression in Hungary" after being "forced out" of the country by the government.

CEU says it has since complied with the law by opening a facility in New York State that U.S. regulators have confirmed as hosting educational activities.

For almost three decades CEU has been a gateway to the West for thousands of students from ex-communist eastern Europe, offering US -accredited degree programmes in an academic climate that celebrates free thought.

The government has called the university's decision to move to Vienna a "political bluff".

In 2017, Mr Orban's then-chief of staff, Janos Lazar, said the education conflict was tied to Mr Soros' advocacy for migration and refugees.

"We, CEU and Fidesz, peacefully coexisted side by side in the past years", Lazar said.

Founded in 1991 by Soros' Open Society Foundations, the school is being moved to Vienna. In June, lawmakers approved the "Stop Soros" law, which allows criminal penalties of up to a year in prison for those convicted of aiding asylum-seekers.

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