Gergely Karácsony is against Shanghai's Fudan University setting up a campus in Budapest. The latter’s charter requires it represent the “world vision of the Chinese Communist Party”. Prime Minister Viktor Orbán is increasingly aligned with China, a challenge to the European Union and the United States.
Budapest (AsiaNews) – The mayor of Budapest is opposed the Hungarian government's plan to build a campus of the Shanghai's Fudan University in the Hungarian capital by 2024.
According to Gergely Karácsony, a member of Hungary's Green Party, the administration of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán wants to bring an academically serious foreign university, whose charter requires that it represent the “world vision of the Chinese Communist Party”.
For Budapest's first citizen, this is a threat to the country's national security. There is also a problem of cost and transparency.
The bill for the Chinese campus is estimated at US$ 1.8 billion, more than the government spent on the country’s entire education system in 2019, the Hungarian news site Direkt36 reported last month.
About 20 per cent of the costs will fall directly on Hungarian taxpayers, while the rest will be covered by a loan from a Chinese bank.
According to documents obtained by Direkt36, most of the work will be done with Chinese material and workers in violation of the European Union’s procurement rules.
This is not the first time that Viktor Orbán, the theorist of 'illiberal democracy', has disregarded EU rules.
Without a public tender, the Hungarian leader granted the Chinese the contract to build the Budapest-Belgrade high-speed railway set to open in 2025, part of Xi Jinping's Belt and Road Initiative.
For Karácsony, Hungary is now a proxy for the “eastern great powers” (Russia included) within the EU.
Orbán has also given the green light to Huawei's 5G networks; the Chinese tech company has its largest supply centre outside of China in Hungary.
The US and most of its European allies have banned or restricted business with the Chinese multinational, which it accuses of spying on behalf of the government.
Hungary is also the only country in the EU to have authorised the use of the Chinese coronavirus vaccine.
For analysts, Beijing is using the Budapest-Belgrade railway and Fudan campus projects to promote its own strategic interests and extend its influence in the region.
They note that China get the most from doing business in Hungary: contracts for its companies, high interest loans, and, above all, greater political clout within Europe.
According to the United States and the European Union, China is using its Belt and Road to get its partner to align with its geopolitical agenda.
A glaring example is the decision in 2016 by Hungary and Greece to block a joint EU declaration in support of the Court of Arbitration in The Hague, which had rejected Beijing's territorial claims in the South China Sea in a case brought by the Philippines.
Two weeks ago, Budapest did it again by vetoing a European declaration criticising China’s crackdown against Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement. In so doing, the Hungarian government rejected a proposal to impose sanctions on China, including suspending existing extradition treaties.