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Head of PMO On Minister’s Uncovered Promise: Science Academy Leader ‘Breached’ Agreement

Ábrahám Vass 2019.06.21.

In reaction to a leaked recording in which leader of the Ministry for Innovation and Technology (ITM) László Palkovics promised MTA that it can keep its institutes and it wouldn’t undergo major restructuring, PMO head Gergely Gulyás criticized Hungarian Academy of Sciences (MTA) president László Lovász and the Academy for ‘breaching’ their agreement and for the ‘morally questionable’ uncovered behavior. 

Gulyás: MTA breached previous agreement

Gulyás said the government and the academy had been in agreement that the academy would not be stripped of its research institutes, but the MTA’s head had “breached that agreement;” therefore, the government had reworded its draft of the MTA law. He also said that “in an institution where talks with a minister leak out, reforms are indeed needed.” Furthermore, he explained that “we don’t want to take anything away, as research institutes have been carrying out public tasks in the past, and in the future they will continue to carry out those tasks as well.”

By “breaching,” Gulyás referred to the letter of intent that Lovász and Palkovics signed in March. Lovász and the contents of the letter, however, were later voted down democratically in MTA’s General Assembly by a great majority.

A Letter of Intent Brings Accord Not Concord for the Academy

Palkovics contradicts himself?

In the aforementioned footage, recorded at the very beginning of the talks, approximately one year ago, Palkovics insists that the government doesn’t intend to separate MTA from its research institutes, or to decide on what scientists should work on, and that it doesn’t plan any major restructuring at all. This is quite contrary to what is currently happening. As a result, Palkovics is now accused of lying by the Forum of Academic Workers (ADF) and other pro-academic freedom entities.

Meanwhile, Lovász is under attack in the pro-Fidesz media for thanking Romanian Academy’s leader Ion Aurel Pop, who previously made controversial statements in connection with Hungary and Hungarian history, for supporting MTA and standing by academic freedom.

More power for Orbán

In addition, according to a recent planned amendment to the bill, published first by Népszava, until Palkovics and Lovász agree on the chairman of the Eötvös Loránd Research Network (ELKH), the Prime Minister can temporarily entrust someone with those related tasks.

Government to Impose Total Control Over the Science Academy

As reported, the government would move all 15 research institutes to this newly-formed state research network which would consist of 13 members, six of whom would be proposed by Palkovics, and six by Lovász, but all of them would be appointed by the prime minister. Similarly, the chairman of the board would be nominated after the joint proposal. However, if there is no agreement between the two on a chosen person, Orbán is to nominate anyone he prefers.

More to join Szeged University’s statement

Thus far, 30 professors from ELTE’s Faculty of Science, 58 from Debrecen University, and 90 from the Budapest University of Technology and Economics (BME) joined Szeged University’s statement, signed by 80 professors in which they call government and MPs not to support the bill, “…not to incur such damage to the academic research system that is excellent internationally and key for the country’s future and development.”

featured image via Gabriella Csoszó / FreeDoc via ADF-Facebook