On Tuesday, 27. October 2020, members of Committee on Culture and Education exchanged views with Commissioner Mariya Gabriel and gave their thoughts on the situation on the Hungarian University of Theatre and Film Arts.
Thousands of people have formed a chain in the streets of the Hungarian capital Budapest in protest at what they say is a takeover of a top arts university by the country’s government. Demonstrators fear a new board at the University of Theatre and Film Arts, led by an ally of Prime Minister Viktor Orban, will ruin its autonomy. It is the latest battle, and possibly last stand, against the Hungarian government’s attempt to seize power in independent institutions of all sorts, including cultural ones. Demonstrators demanded autonomy for the school and freedom for artistic endeavour and education.
The university is the seventh institution to be transferred to the control of private foundations where the board of directors are selected by the government. The government denies claims that it is limiting freedom of expression, and says the privatisation of this and other universities will make them more competitive.
MEP Joveva expressed her full support to the students and extended her congratulations on their strength, efforts, and fight for their university. “I hope you will manage to free the chains the government tries to put onto you.” Brilliant artists have emerged from this university and Joveva hopes they will continue to do so – in all freedoms that belong to them. The government has been systematically strangling media freedoms, democracy, and freedom of speech over years now, this just being the newest peak, she added.
CULT members also discussed with Attila Vidnyanszky. He was recently appointed to chair the board of directors and he made clear what the 155-year-old institution’s new direction would be: he wanted a “different kind of thinking” at the university, adding that existing classes would be kept with some ephasis placed on patriotism and Christianity. That is why MEP Joveva asked him: “What does this even mean? Is the meaning of your patriotism to suppress everything that does not comfort to your own ideas and values?” She continued that hiding an ideological battle under the facade of alleged increased competitiveness is a dangerous move we have seen before.
MEP Joveva also had a question for the Hungarian Minister of State for Economic Strategy and Regulation, Laszlo Gyorgy. Her questions and the speech in full length can be watched underneath:
If you are interested to know a little bit more on this matter you can read this article.