As guest blogger for the month, I’m going to be talking about Hungary, where I’ve been doing field research in since 2004. In doing so, I also have to talk about Trump. I don’t want to, but I have to, since Hungary has had a far right populist leader for a lot longer than the U.S. Viktor Orbán is the head of the right-wing party, Fidesz, and has been the prime minister of Hungary since 2010. Pretty much everything Trump has threatened to do, Orbán has already done louder and more effectively. Demonize the press as purveyors of “fake news”? Check. One of Orbán’s first acts in office was to change the constitution to limit the power of the free press. Now the vast majority of the media outlets are controlled by the government, private entities closely tied to the ruling party, or fear for their closure. Build a wall to keep out immigrants? Check. A razor-wire border fence stands at the southern border of Hungary to keep out asylum-seekers, most of whom international agencies claim meet the definition of a refugee. Attack institutes of higher education as breeding grounds for liberalism? Check. Last Tuesday, March 28th, legislative amendments were introduced that could effectively close Central European University (CEU), an institution that has stood as a proponent of internationalism and democracy since 1991.
CEU is an American university in the heart of Budapest, founded by George Soros, who is no friend of the far-right, xenophobic Prime Minister Viktor Orban — which may be why a new law requiring all foreign universities in Hungary to have a branch in their home country uniquely endangers CEU.
Why is the Hungarian government targeting the country’s most prominent university?
The Central European University – a Hungarian-US accredited private institution based in Budapest and a recognized contributor to Hungarian and international research, has been the target of an increasingly hostile attitude from the Hungarian authorities over the past months.
As Prime Minister Viktor Orban tightened his grip on power, acquiring broad control over the media, a concerted, gradual attack on financier turned philanthropist George Soros – CEU’s founder and endowment provider, has been launched, culminating this week with a legislative proposal that would essentially strong-arm the University into leaving Budapest.
I’ve just read Jon Worth’s blog post about why he’s calm about the start of the Article 50 negotiations that will most likely lead to Brexit, even if these negotiations are heading to a fight. After spending the best of my last three years researching budgeting in international organisations, including the effects of budget cuts on the EU and UN organizations, I think it’s important for the EU to do some serious contingency-planning ahead of this fight.
Here’s the sentence from Jon’s article that made me write this:
The state of the European Union may now be more uncertain than ever, but European news outlets have been making cross-border moves to solidify ties to each others’ work.
In October, a dozen media organizations will begin officially sharing data-driven stories they produce with each other, through a newly formed European Data Journalism Network (which will live at edjnet.eu when the launch date comes around). VoxEurop, a nonprofit site that commissions, translates, and shares stories with various European partner news organizations will serve as an editorial coordinator (and translation facilitator).