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Science Academy Appeals to MPs, Asking Reconsideration of Forced Reform

Ábrahám Vass 2019.06.06.

On Tuesday night, leader of the Ministry for Innovation and Technology (ITM), László Palkovics presented the controversial bill on the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (MTA) to Parliament. The MTA, in a letter published yesterday, asks the Parliament to reconsider its opinion before voting on the proposal. 

In the letter, the Academy insists that the resolutions passed by the 191st General Assembly are upheld, and protests against the separation of the research network from the Academy, arguing that no meaningful argument had been made by the government as to why such a move is necessary.

It says the restructuring of the research network would hurt academic freedom in Hungary and deprive the country of certain fundamental rights.

The academy also states that it has recommended the establishment of a new management structure for its research network, which takes into consideration the government’s innovation goals. Although this recommendation had been based on a consensus it had reached with the innovation and technology ministry, it was still not incorporated into the bill, the letter says.

In contrast to what the bill contains, the MTA also insists on self-governance and the principle of proportionality in the Governing Body: (1/3 of it delegated by the Government, 1/3 by the MTA and 1/3 by the research institute network).

The institution also criticised the bill for failing to cover important elements of the academy’s basic upkeep, such as the salaries of the researchers and employees.

The MTA also protests against the restriction of its ownership without compensation, which, in their view, is in conflict with Hungary’s Fundamental Law.

Amid Demonstrations, Gov’t Presents Controversial MTA Bill to Parliament

Furthermore, the academy repeated previous claims, saying that the government had never given a detailed explanation of its reasons for the planned changes or a detailed account of the innovation and technology ministry’s plans in connection with the research network.

In addition, the MTA also expects an appropriate attitude towards one of Hungary’s oldest and most prestigious institutions, the letter adds.

Therefore, they call everyone who is concerned about the freedom of science and sympathizes with the Academy of Sciences, to support their cause.

The letter concludes with the announcement that the MTA would soon organize an international press conference.

A “cry for help”

Meanwhile, physicist and full member of the MTA, János Kertész, launched a signature drive addressing Manfred Weber in an open letter. The “cry for help” asks the EPP’s Spitzenkandidat and faction leader to “put pressure on Orbán” as “the Hungarian government launched a legislation (…) which tramples on the rule of constitutional law and on basic democratic principles.” You can read the letter in its entirety here.

featured image: László Lovász and László Palkovics earlier (illustration); via mta.hu/Tamás Szigeti