The speeches at the opening of the Central European University’s (CEU) campus in Vienna belonged more to a political campaign launch than the official opening ceremony of a scientific institution. CEU founder George Soros launched the ‘Open Society University Network’ initiative in his speech, writes political scientist Tamas Lanczi for the V4 news agency.

In their speeches, CEU rector Michael Ignatieff, Austrian Education Minister Iris Rauskala, and Vienna Mayor Michael Ludwig emphasized the importance of academic freedom, diversity, open society and cosmopolitanism. CEU founder and funder George Soros also spoke at the event. Soros, often described as a ‘philanthropist’ in Western papers, crammed his address full of political messages, and not only about the Hungarian government and Budapest. The CEU debate, which broke two years ago, has lost its momentum by now. A more important message in his speech concerned CEU’s future, in becoming something unique, more specifically a university building an international network.

Soros plans to allocate 750 million euros to establish an international network of “progressive” universities, higher educational institutions. “We will call this new initiative the Open Society University Network. It will offer a new model of international cooperation,” Soros said. Such amount of money could not serve other purposes than to compete with nation-state funding in the financing of Central European research institutions important for Soros.

We have to bear in mind that the annual budget of the Hungarian Lorand Eotvos Research Network, which was established in early September and was widely criticised, is 48 billion forints (144 million euros). Soros’s intentions are serious. He announced a university fund which, together with the already available Soros financing, wants to influence the whole university sphere. Of course, this is no charity but a real declaration of war.