Canada’s ambassador to Hungary summoned after questioning academic freedom, fate of Budapest school

Isabelle Poupart, Canada's ambassador to Hungary, Slovenia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Handout

BUDAPEST, Hungary – The Hungarian foreign ministry says it has summoned Canada’s ambassador to Hungary Isabelle Poupart after she expressed concerns about the fate of a Budapest university and academic freedom as a whole.

Poupart had said in a statement Thursday that Canada was “seriously concerned” by the amendments seen targeting Central European University (CEU), founded by George Soros in 1991 and accredited in Hungary and New York state.

“Canada is seriously concerned by amendments that stand to endanger academic freedom in Hungary and the operations of the CEU,”  Poupart said in a statement. “While we welcome the commitment of Hungarian leaders on Saturday to engage about amendments to the education law, we urge them to quickly move from words to meaningful action.

“The CEU is an institution of great international repute and includes a number of Canadian students and faculty in its academic community, comprising people from 130 nations. Canada strongly supports the essential role that universities, NGOs and a free press play in fostering open, prosperous, inclusive and democratic societies,” Poupart said.

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Poupart said Canada encourages a constructive dialogue to solve the matter.

Hungarian foreign ministry said Friday that Poupart’s statements on recent amendments to the law on higher education are false and academic freedom is not under threat.

“The freedom of learning is a right for which the Hungarian Government has always firmly stood up, and will protect it also in the future,” the ministry said in a statement.

Hungary says CEU is cheating by issuing Hungarian and American diplomas, giving it an unfair advantage over other local universities.

CEU rector is Michael Ignatieff, former leader of the Liberal party.

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