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May 25, 2017

New York Governor steps forward for CEU talks after Hungarian government expresses dismay at initial snub

“The Government of Hungary has stated publicly that it can only discuss the future of CEU in Hungary with relevant US authorities, which in this case is the State of New York. The Governor welcomes the opportunity to resolve this matter and to initiate discussions with the Hungarian government without delay,” the New York state governor said

Despite the Hungarian government's initial concerns over the United States not wanting to partake in discussions surrounding CEU, Andrew Cuomo, the governor of the State of New York, has said he is ready for talks with Hungary on the Central European University.

“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 to continue the New York State-Government of Hungary relationship and ensure that the institution remains a treasured resource for students around the world,” the governor said.

“The Government of Hungary has stated publicly that it can only discuss the future of CEU in Hungary with relevant US authorities, which in this case is the State of New York. The Governor welcomes the opportunity to resolve this matter and to initiate discussions with the Hungarian government without delay,” Cuomo added to his statement.

However, on Tuesday it was a very different story. US State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert said "the US government has no authority or intention to enter into negotiations on the operation of Central European University or other universities in Hungary."

Hungary's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade was quick to respond and said that “a press release falls far short of an official diplomatic reply."

Tamás Menczer, the Ministry's press chief, said at the time that "the Hungarian government has a clear interest in reaching an agreement, but unfortunately no support for this process has been forthcoming from the US federal government.”

‘It’s particularly regrettable, compared to the experience of the last couple of decades, when, on three separate occasions, the two governments have concluded agreements on education issues," an official statement said.

Parliament last month approved amendments to the higher education act that require foreign colleges and universities in Hungary to operate on the basis of an intergovernmental agreement and to have a campus in the country in which they are based.

The amendments to the higher education act stipulate that in instances in which the central government of a federal state is not authorized to recognize the binding effect of an international agreement, such an agreement will be made on the basis of a preliminary agreement with said government.

The CEU, which is chartered by the State of New York but has just one campus, in Budapest, earlier said the amendments would make its continued operation in Budapest “impossible”.

However, the news that the New York state government is ready and willing to participate in talks surrounding CEU and what Hungary's higher education act actually means is a welcomed step. Negotiations will continue.