BUDAPEST, Hungary — New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday he is ready for talks with Hungary’s government on the status of Central European University, which may be forced to leave Budapest due to recent amendments to the law on higher education.
CEU, founded by billionaire George Soros, is also accredited in New York state. The issue is part of a wider government campaign against Soros, a Hungarian-American whose “open society” ideals contrast with Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s plans to make Hungary an “illiberal state.”
“An agreement to keep CEU in Budapest as a free institution is in everyone’s best interests, and I stand ready to enter into discussions with the Hungarian government,” Cuomo said in a statement, describing CEU as “a symbol of American-Hungarian cooperation and a world-class graduate university.”
Hungary and New York signed a 2004 agreement supporting CEU. Hungary wants a bilateral agreement with the United States on the university, but the State Department said Tuesday it had “no authority or intention” to negotiate about it.
The State Department also called on Hungary to suspend implementation of the amendments passed in April.
CEU welcomed Cuomo’s initiative, saying it “opens the path for negotiations.”
“We hope the Hungarian government will respond positively,” CEU Rector Michael Ignatieff said. “We have said since the beginning that the right solution is a new agreement between New York and Hungary.”
Reaction from the Hungarian government was expected later Wednesday. The university enrolls 1,400 students.