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Massive rally in Budapest in support of Soros-funded university

12 April, 2017, 02:44 | Author: Paula Vaughn
  • Correction: Austria-Hungary-CEU story

Protesters filling Kossuth Square outside Parliament said they want President Janos Ader to veto the legislation.

Tens of thousands of Hungarians protested in central Budapest on Sunday against new legislation that could force the Central European University (CEU), a school founded by financier George Soros, to move out of the country. The issue has thrust Budapest back into global headlines, with critics at the very highest levels across the world claiming Orban continues to damage democracy.

A government proposal earlier this year to force foreign NGOs to reveal their assets was denounced as an attempt to "stigmatise or even get rid of these organisations" by the Hungarian Civil Liberties Committee.

However, Ader - a close confidante of the PM - was unnmoved. Had he had concerns with the bill, Ader could have asked the Constitutional Court to review the amendments or sent it back to parliament for reconsideration.

Yee told Reuters that, while the new law hurt the university and academic freedoms, Hungary remained a key USA ally.

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Hungary's right-wing president has signed controversial legislation on foreign universities that critics warn could force the closure of a top global institution founded by US financier George Soros. Some of the requirements - such as carrying out teaching activities in their home countries - are seen specifically targeting CEU, which does not have an American campus.

The marchers included students and staff of the university, many wearing the blue of the CEU and some waving Hungarian, EU as well as USA flags as they marched from the historic Buda castle to the parliament building in Budapest. "Let's stop Viktor Orbán", "Free country, free university!" and "We have had enough!".

Hungarians held one of the biggest demonstrations yet against Prime Minister Viktor Orban's government, calling for the rejection of legislation on universities that has drawn rebukes from the US, Germany and some of the world's top schools. "We're urging the government of Hungary to suspend implementation of the law". The university now enrolls more than 1,400 students from 108 countries.

A law expected to be passed in May would force nongovernmental organizations getting more than $24,500 a year from overseas to register with authorities.

The education reform may force CEU to change its name and be subject to a new inter-governmental agreement between Hungary and the USA - this could be problematic given Mr Soros's criticism of Mr Orban and United States president Donald Trump. The CEU operates in Budapest but is the only global college with no branch outside Hungary.

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