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Dec 18, 2018 - Zoltán Kovács

Here’s the letter that El Pais refused to publish

We’ve approached the editors of the Spanish El Pais many times to ask for the right to reply to their biased reporting. Last week’s commentary, “La libertad en juego,” was yet another unfortunate example. Here’s my letter that they refused to publish.

Dear Editor:

I read with amusement your opinion, "La libertad en juego," concerning the Central European University in Hungary. Clearly missing some essential facts, it becomes comical when the author condemns the Orbán Government for its “xenophobic delirium” and “allergic reaction to critical thinking” in the question of this particularly university.

You see, according to the laws of Spain, the Central European University, according to the way it has been operating in Budapest, would never have been allowed to open its doors in Spain.

The reason? The CEU claims to be a U.S. university awarding degrees accredited in the United States. Yet, the CEU in the United States does not offer any accredited courses in higher education, does not have faculty, nor does it have a campus.

That’s a simple requirement under the new Hungarian law. And it’s perfectly reasonably, as I’m sure your compatriots would agree, because article 15 of the 420/2015 royal decree requires that only those foreign institutions of higher education may operate in Spain that are engaged in higher education in their home countries. So why all this talk about threats to liberty?

There’s more. The university hasn’t even been closed down in Hungary, as many claim. It continues, as Rector Ignatieff himself acknowledges, to operate and award degrees in Hungary through its locally registered affiliate, the Közép-europai Egyetem. The U.S. Ambassador to Hungary, David Cornstein, was precisely right when he said, “It doesn’t have anything to do with academic freedom.”

And another detail that you overlooked: Hungary’s law has affected dozens of foreign institutions of higher education operating in Hungary. Many of them had no problem complying, including another U.S. school, McDaniel College in Maryland.

A failure to grasp those facts and see that this is a legal matter, perfectly reasonable administrative requirements, so reasonable in fact that they resemble those in Spain – a failure to grasp that seems like an allergic reaction to critical thinking.

Sincerely yours,

Zoltán Kovács, State Secretary for International Communication, Cabinet Office of the Prime Minister