Orbán turns the screw on the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and throws down another gauntlet to Europe

People protest outside the Hungarian Academy of Sciences against government's plans to overhaul the institution in Budapest, Hungary, June 2, 2019. REUTERS/Bernadett Szabo
People protest outside the Hungarian Academy of Sciences against government's plans to overhaul the institution in Budapest, Hungary, June 2, 2019. REUTERS/Bernadett Szabo

The Orban government is breaking up the Hungarian Academy of Sciences  in a very brutal way which means that all the research institutes will lose their academic autonomy and become subordinated to direct governmental control.

What will be the endgame? Viktor Orbán vesus the Academy

A number of prominent scholars have written a petition addressed to Manfred Weber, Leader of the European People's Party,  as it is very clear that only external intervention can force Orban to step back.

Please read, sign  and sharethe letter below petitioning Manfred Weber MEP to intervene.

Dear Mr. Weber,

This open letter is a cry for help. We, Hungarian scientists, scholars and university professors turn to you for help in a most serious matter: The Hungarian Government has proposed legislation that would change the Hungarian research landscape dramatically, which tramples on the rule of constitutional law and on basic democratic principles.

The Hungarian Academy of Sciences is an almost 200-year-old institution with numerous research centers and a network of research groups hosted by universities. The centers and institutes are under the self-governance of the Academy and are internationally reviewed regularly. The overall performance of these institutes is good, especially in comparison to the level of funding they receive.

According to the proposed legislation, the research centers and institutes would be separated from the Academy and organized into a new entity, governed by a board composed of 50 % governmental delegates. Moreover, the plan is to have a further council above this board, entirely consisting of delegates of the government. All the persons in these bodies would be appointed by the Prime Minister. All the assets of the Academy, including real estate, facilities and all equipment would be used by the new organization without any compensation to the Academy.

The legislation was preceded by a one-year struggle between the government and the Academy. The Government has failed to present any reasonable argument or impact assessment. The leadership of the Academy has unanimously condemned the attack on academic freedom, has presented clear arguments in favor of keeping the institutes within the organization of the Academy and has shown gestures of readiness for compromise. These were swept aside.

The General Assembly of the Hungarian Academy voted twice with overwhelming majority against the intentions of the Government. The research community has organized itself into the so-called Hungarian Academy Staff Forum. Multiple demonstrations were held, manifestos and protests were published – in vain. We have run out of options.

Prime Minister Mr. Orbán, the leader of the ruling FIDESZ party seems to intend to stay with his party within the EPP in the new legislature. He already ordered concessions to comply the democratic requirements put forward to him by EPP, like the withdrawal of the system of courts for public administration or that of the special tax for advertisements. The new legislation, which violates the right to academic freedom, and the right to property, is a severe attack on the democratic order and principles. We ask you to put pressure on Mr. Orbán to withdraw the legislation about the Hungarian Academy of Sciences.

With best regards,

To sign the petition, click here


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