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Employees of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (MTA) on Tuesday staged a demonstration at the Academy’s building on Budapest’s Széchenyi Square to take a stand for the Academy’s unity and autonomy, and protest against government plans to reorganise its structure and funding. The demonstration was timed to coincide with MTA’s board meeting scheduled to decide on the academy’s approach to the government’s plans, Emese Szilágyi, of the organiser Forum of Academic Employees (ADF), told MTI.

Adrienn Szilágyi, an employee of MTA’s Institute of History, said that the innovation and technology ministry’s plan to fund the academy fully from tenders is “actually an austerity measure … that will thwart the operation of the Academy and lead to its collapse”. “We understand that reforms are necessary but not without the consent of MTA employees and not to their detriment,” she said. The ADF aims to preserve the Academy’s professional and financial independence, she said.

MTA President László Lovász met the demonstrators in front of the building to receive a document protesting against the planned changes. After speeches by psychologist Csaba Pléh and linguist István Kenesei, the protesters formed a human chain around the building.

At a press conference in December 2018, Minister of Innovation and Technology László Palkovics said that the structure of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences had stayed the same over the past 80 years. The ministry had been tasked with redefining allocations for research and redesigning the entire system, Palkovics said. “Top researchers, rather than institutions, should be supported financially,” he said. “Changes under way have nothing to do either with the Academy or its network’s independence since all of the latter body’s rights are enshrined in the constitution”, he said.

Meanwhile, ethnic Hungarian leaders of the Babeș-Bolyai University in Cluj (Kolozsvár), Romania, which boasts a long-standing tradition in Hungarian-language courses and has many Hungarian students, issued a statement together with the Romanian national institute for ethnic minority research, expressing concern over the planned changes. Some hundred people staged a silent protest in front of the Hungarian Consulate-General in Cluj on Tuesday.