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Dissatisfied Conservative Professors Surprise Prime Minister With Harsh Criticism

By Tamás Székely // 2017.01.26.

The Batthyány Society of Professors (PBK) is a conservative, right-leaning association of prominent Hungarian researchers and university teachers. Despite its obvious political affiliation, the professors not only praised but also harshly criticized the policies of PM Viktor Orbán’s right-wing government in their latest ‘country report’, causing some surprises in Hungarian public life.

In their assessment of the current state of the country, published on 12th of January, the professors admit Hungary is on the right track in terms of economic and financial policies. However, they claim that many Hungarians are excluded from the benefits of the recent times’ economic achievements as the gap between rich and poor is still widening in the country. They also criticized the government’s decision-making processes in general, pointing out that many decisions “serve only a small group’s interests.”

According to PBK, the influence of newly enriched figures close to government circles is more than worrying and corruption has remained a “systemic problem” in Hungary. The professors have called for a “quick improvement of the human sphere” and urged the government to invest much more into healthcare, education and science for the sake of future generations. They also complained about the poor quality of public media and the governments’ controversial anti-migrant campaign ahead of the migrant quota referendum held last October.

In response to the criticism, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán sent a letter of thanks to the professors as well as a 53-page enclosure containing facts, data and graphs serving as the basis for the government’s decisions. In his letter Orbán wrote: “I would like to thank you for the work you have completed in our country’s interest in order to assist an accurate assessment of Hungary’s situation”. He indicated that he is pleased to be at the PBK’s disposal “for genuine dialogue which does not serve propaganda purposes, and as part of which we may conduct an exchange of views regarding your study”.

On behalf of the professors, chemist Gábor Náray-Szabó and surgeon Lajos Kollár have said in a fresh interview with weekly Heti Válasz, that they were grateful for the Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s lengthy answer, and they were looking forward to meet him personally in order to discuss the report. However, in the interview the two professors underpinned PBK’s criticism over many areas of government policies, the poor state of Hungarian education and healthcare systems in particular. As they said, more and more conservative intellectuals, even those who used to be enthusiastic supporters of the government, have become disappointed with the leadership of the country.

Founded in 1995, the Batthyány Society of Professors sees itself as an independent association, with support from the Batthyány Foundation. According to its website, PBK’s “main objective is to provide a framework for the activity of university professors who are strongly committed to traditional European social virtues and are willing to act for a better society.” “Relying on the knowledge, experience and reputation of its members, the Society offers moral and intellectual support to creditable political parties and politicians who work for a civic Hungary”, it claims.

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