BUDAPEST (Reuters) - The president of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (HAS) has appealed to the Constitutional Court to strike down a reform that strips his august institution of its research network, part of government plans to tighten state control over academic life.
The new law, pushed through parliament in July by Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s nationalist government, strips the 200-year-old Academy of its network of research bodies and hands them over to a committee with a chairman appointed by Orban and half its members from the government.
HAS President Laszlo Lovasz’s appeal, first flagged in an interview with Reuters in June, aims to roll back key provisions of the reform, which triggered angry protests by scientists and others over the summer.
“The protection of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences enshrined in the Fundamental Law necessarily entails the continued existence of the academic research network,” Lovasz wrote in a letter published on the HAS website.
“Therefore, stripping the Hungarian Academy of Sciences of its scientific research activity as a public service violates the constitution,” he wrote, adding that the law also violated the right to property and scientific liberties.
Orban has steadily tightened government control over various areas of Hungarian public life including the universities, courts and media over the past decade.
In a possible setback for Lovasz’s appeal, all members of the Constitutional Court have been appointed since Orban took power in 2010. If the judges reject the appeal, it was not immediately clear whether he could seek redress from a European court.
Before the new law was passed, the European Commission urged the Orban government “to refrain from any decision restricting scientific and academic freedom”.
Orban has often been at odds with the European Union, which accuses him of undermining the rule of law in Hungary.
Reporting by Gergely Szakacs; Editing by Gareth Jones