“What does the CEU have to do with academic freedom?”, Hungarian Government Spokesperson Zoltán Kovács asked in a letter to the editor of Canadian daily Globe and Mail in reaction to an interview published on Monday with Rector of the Central European University (CEU), historian Michael Ignatieff.

In the interview Ignatieff said, amongst others, that Hungary is moving towards a single-party system, and the same fate could await several other countries. Without overdramatising the situation, the CEU, this small university, has found itself at the centre of a clash between democratic and anti-democratic forces. Without free universities there is no true democracy. Academic freedom is not a luxury of professors, it’s a key indicator of what kind of democracy you have and whether you have one at all, Ignatieff said.

In reply, Zoltán Kovács wrote a letter to the editor, which the Canadian daily published in both its printed and online publication. According to the Hungarian Government’s Spokesperson, there are several important questions Daniel Nolan, the journalist who did the interview, could have asked the rector of the Central European University.

“On what grounds does the Central European University award diplomas from the United States when the CEU, by its own admission, does not deliver accredited courses in higher education in the United States?”, Mr. Kovács asked, pointing out that  “The CEU has an affiliate, the Közép-europai Egyetem, that is registered and accredited in Hungary. Courses may continue to be held and diplomas awarded from this Hungarian-accredited institution. So how does this have anything to do with academic freedom?”, the Government Spokesperson asked.

(Cabinet Office of the Prime Minister/MTI)