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Radio Free Europe Highlights CEU in Budapest

"It is part of the illiberal recipe book that these systems do not like representative democracy, freedom of thought, academic freedom, university freedom," our Co-Director Renata Uitz said to Szabad Europa (Radio Free Europe).

On the sixth anniversary of Lex CEU, RFE published a photo report about CEU in Budapest, and interviewed our colleagues.

“It seemed that CEU was just another domino in the queue," said our Research Assistant Dorottya Fekete, who started her studies at CEU in Budapest and was able to graduate in Budapest despite the move. Students hoped until the last minute that the entire course would remain in the Hungarian capital, she continued, and added that she found it strange that the protests, including the one on Kossuth Square, had little impact.

“Vienna is our new home,” said our Research Affiliate Carsten Q. Schneider, CEU’s Pro-Rector for External Relations. “Not since the Second World War has a university’s operations been made impossible. That is why I always stress: don't worry about us, worry about the other universities. What was done once, will be done twice."

"The students are gone, the teachers are gone, so we started a comprehensive digitization program to make our films, photos and hundreds of thousands of documents as accessible as possible for students in Vienna," said our Research Affiliate Istvan Rev, Director of Vera and Donald Blinken Open Society Archives.

Renata Uitz recalled that in Turkey, the passports of thousands of lecturers have been revoked, in Russia, the academic world is kept on a leash by a work contract that must be renewed every year. "The Hungarian innovation was to create more or less a tailor-made law, the beauty of which is that the conditions cannot be met by a university on its own. In our case, what happened was that while the university met the legal conditions, the government did not sign the international agreement that it had itself demanded, negotiated and prepared by its own representatives," she argued.

"An important element of illiberal democracy is that it tries to recreate itself. But this takes time. That's why the opposition has a better chance at the first election than when it is running for the fourth time to replace an illiberal government," she continued.

The ousting of CEU fits into this line, even if not spectacularly. "There are no tanks on the street, the coffee is good, the downtown is beautiful. When a foreign journalist asks me if I'm overwhelmed, I reply, I'm fine, thanks - it's just that my workplace had to move to another country. It's hard to write an article about this that makes the front page of the Times or the Post," she explained.

The article also mentions programs in Budapest, such as the Borderless Knowledge series, and the Invisible University for Ukraine.

Read the full article (in Hungarian) here.

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