Budapest’s leadership opposes the construction of a campus of China’s Fudan University in the city’s 9th district, Gergely Karácsony, the city’s mayor, told a press conference on Monday.
Karácsony and Krisztina Baranyi, the mayor of the 9th district, earlier in the day met László Palkovics, the minister of innovation and technology, for talks on the project.
Following talks with the minister, the city leadership can say it is “particularly” opposed to the construction of the campus, especially in the area meant to house a student quarter, Karácsony said.
The mayor described the meeting with Palkovics as “long and unproductive”. He said the government had so far been reluctant to share its plans for the university campus, but today it had been revealed that
it intends to spend more than 500 billion forints (EUR 1.4bn) in public funds on building an elite Chinese private university in the area of a planned student quarter, which would now have to be smaller as a result.
Karácsony noted that Prime Minister Viktor Orbán had said on the night of the 2019 local government elections that the government accepted the outcome of the vote, and vowed not to launch any investment projects in Budapest which the city’s leadership opposed.
“This means that the Fudan project is off the table, because the city’s leadership doesn’t support it,” he said.
He said an agreement signed between the government and Budapest’s 9th district in December 2019 made no mention of the construction of a university, adding that the deal could only be amended if both sides agree to it.
Karácsony said that after the government “drove the Central European University out of the country”, it was “hard to believe” that it would openly welcome any of the world’s universities.
He said that until today, the leaders of neither Budapest nor the 9th district had participated in any meetings where Fudan University was ever mentioned, insisting that they had been “misled”. The metropolitan council strives for a fair working relationship with the government and honours all of their agreements, Karácsony said, adding that the government needed to understand that Budapest did not want to go against the December 2019 agreement.
The metropolitan council “will use all legal and political means at its disposal to ensure that the student quarter is built and Fudan isn’t”, he said.
Baranyi said Palkovics had asked for her and Karácsony’s approval for the Fudan campus to be built by “scrapping” the student quarter project. In response to a question, she said the size of the student quarter would now have to shrink from 26 hectares to a maximum of 7 hectares.
Baranyi added that the metropolitan council feared that while it would be prevented from holding local referendums on the matter due to the special legal order in place because of the pandemic, the government would sign the international treaties cementing the project. The metropolitan council has therefore decided to hold an “online consultation” with Budapesters, seeking their opinion on the construction of the Fudan University campus, she added.