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Orbán gov’t to gift Budapest real estate and cash to election-proofed Fudan university foundation

Hungary’s government has pledged to gift real estate worth 37.5 million euros to Fudan Hungary University Foundation. The newly established foundation is future-proofed against a possible election loss of the ruling Fidesz party.

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Viktor Orbán’s government has pledged to transfer real estate worth 37.5 million euros and a smaller amount in cash to newly established Fudan Hungary University Foundation, Átlátszó revealed on Wednesday. The move signals that Orbán’s government is pulling out all the stops to help establish a campus of China’s Fudan University in Budapest — a move tens of thousands of Budapest locals protested against this summer.

The new foundation is future-proofed against a possible Fidesz loss either in the general elections next year, or to a fresh referendum inititative headed by Budapest mayor and opposition politician Gergely Karácsony, Átlátszó has found upon reviewing the deed of the foundation.

Acting with a lightning speed usually uncharacteristic of this tribunal, Budapest’s Capital Court has ruled to register Fudan Hungary University Foundation this Monday. PM Viktor Orbán’s government forwarded the deed of this foundation, aiming to establish a campus of China’s Fudan University in Budapest, only last week to the court.

On the same Monday, the National Election Committee (NVB) greenlighted— after more than a month of deliberation — a referendum initiative aiming to void the original piece of legislation providing the legal basis for setting up the foundation.

By curious incident, the delegate of Orbán’s Fidesz party in the committee, Zoltán Sárhegyi, is the name partner of the legal firm of Sárhegyi és Társai, which was commissioned by the Ministry of Innovation and Technology (ITM) to register the foundation.

Even though Orbán’s government acted as founder for the foundation and nominated the memebers of the governing board, the deed of the foundation signs away the founder’s rights from the Hungarian state to the governors, who are presided over by minister László Palkovics of ITM, Átlátszó has found upon reviewing the documents.

The initial capital of the foundation includes cash worth 1.72 million euros and Budapest real estate worth 37.54 million euros, all coming from public coffers. While that the cash has already been put aside,  the government so far has only pledged to transfer the ownership rights to the real estate — which leaves a tiny theoretical door open for the government to backtrack on its plans.

The properties are situated on a 32.5 hectare brownfield area in Southern Budapest, which — after its original developer went bankrupt and was acquired by the government — was slated to be rebuilt as an affordable housing project for Hungarian university students until Orbán’s government decided it should rather serve as the site for the Budapest campus of China’s Fudan University.

Orbán’s cabinet, Fudan, and little-known company Fudan Magyarország Kft. — set up by Yiwu Research Institute, an arm of Fudan — signed an agreement this spring to further the realisation of the project.

Budapest mayor and opposition politician Gergely Karácsony led a crowd tens of thousands strong to protest the government’s plans in June, and aimed to center to issue as the focal point of his campaign to run for PM in the general elections next year with filing the referendum initiative with NVB.

Protesters rally against the Fudan project on 5th June 2021 in Budapest

But it can be all for naught, as the foundation is set up to be future-proofed against any possible referendum or election outcomes. The deed waives any future right of the founder — the Hungarian state — to form any claim to the assets already transferred to the foundation.

Written by Márton Sarkadi Nagy. Hungarian original was also written by Márton Sarkadi Nagy. Cover photo: Registry document of Yiwu Research Institute of China’s Fudan University

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