Cuomo said in late May that he welcomed the opportunity to resolve the matter of the CEU's continued operation in Budapest. "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," he said.

Parliament earlier 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 CEU, which is chartered by the State of New York but has just one campus, in Budapest, has said the amendments will make its continued operation "impossible".

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

Lázár said concerns over the amendments aired earlier by the European Commission did not warrant any changes to the higher education act. He noted that the EC had earlier launched an infringement procedure against Hungary over the amendments and Hungary was required to respond to questions in the executive body's "letter of formal notice”.

While some have been "whipped into a frenzy" over the matter of the CEU, a number of countries are prepared to negotiate with the government, Lázár said. He cited the examples of a China-based university and the US-based McDaniel College, both in Budapest. The government has already held talks with the heads of McDaniel College, and they, as well as the State of Maryland, where the school has its main campus, are ready to reach an agreement, he added.

The government is also in contact with the United States federal government on the matter, Lázár said.


Washington ‘can’t help’

The US government "has no authority or intention to enter into negotiations on the operation of Central European University or other universities in Hungary", the State Department has said. "The United States again urges the Government of Hungary to suspend implementation of its amended higher education law, which places discriminatory, onerous requirements on US-accredited institutions in Hungary and threatens academic freedom and independence," a statement by spokeswoman Heather Nauert said. The State Department urged the Hungarian government "to engage directly" with affected institutions to find a resolution that allows them to continue to function freely and provide greater educational opportunity for the citizens of Hungary and the region.

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