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Jan 17, 2019 - Zoltán Kovács

Die Zeit’s love affair with liberal science fiction

Today’s edition of the German weekly, Die Zeit, features a lengthy rant by a contributor by the name of Liviu Matei, who paints a rather unfavorable image of Hungary under the Orbán Government. We’ve grown accustomed since 2010 to this kind of hyperbole, but this one really goes over the top.

Matei writes that after “restricting democratic freedoms over the past eight years,” Hungary’s government has resorted to “open repression”. Specific examples? He gives none.

Matei goes on to claim that “people are being driven out of the country by the thousands” and “adults have to leave their work, children have to leave their playgrounds” to “seek refuge in other countries”. People driven out by the thousands and children leaving their playgrounds, all seeking refuge. OMG.

In today’s Hungary, the birth rate is rising, the number of marriages each year rising and the number of divorces falling. Hungary’s GDP growth is now approaching the second highest in the EU. Foreign investment in 2018 set records in terms of the number of investments and their value. Unemployment has fallen to record lows and real wages are rising. For those who know today’s Hungary, Matei’s account reads like science fiction.

The penny drops when you see that Liviu Matei is the provost at the Central European University. He’s got an agenda to drive, and if it weren’t clear in those first few paragraphs of sci-fi, it becomes crystal clear as he turns to the CEU.

The CEU, he claims, is “no longer allowed to accept new students” and the university’s move to Vienna was “an expulsion.” Apparently, the author – and the editors at Die Zeit – haven’t been downtown Budapest to see that the CEU is still there nor have they read the CEU’s website. If they had taken a look today, they would have read this little gem:

"CEU and KEE have overlapping operations, authorized and accredited by the respective bodies in the U.S. and Hungary. CEU and KEE offer a single set of academic programs, all of which are conducted in Budapest.”

What does that mean? Well, CEU’s provost ignored some essential facts in his dramatic account for Die Zeit. Let’s review – again:

1. CEU has enjoyed undue privilege by operating what was essentially an “offshore university,” issuing 2-for-1 Hungarian-American degrees without offering genuine educational programs in the US where it was accredited. That’s the CEU in New York state, but the CEU doesn’t do anything called higher education in the state of New York. In several EU states, CEU would never have been able to set up shop like this in the first place.  

2. But the school has a registered university in Hungary. It’s called the Közép-európai Egyetem (also known as KEE), and it’s fully accredited here. KEE has been delivering courses as a Hungarian institution of higher education. It continues to do so today and will continue to do so in the future.

Technically, then, the relocation of CEU’s issuing body to Vienna only affects the US-registered CEU and leaves KEE intact. This clearly has nothing to do with “an expulsion” or “academic freedom”—and never has – it’s another wily maneuver, a Soros-style political ploy. 

Why did he leave out those details? That seems clear enough, if unfortunate. Why do publications like Die Zeit, and others in the German media, give carte blanche to Soros activists to write these sorry polemics? That’s a very good question.