Budapest mayor Gergely Karacsony openly opposed the construction of China’s first overseas university campus in the European Union in the capital, citing “very serious national security risks.”
Hungary announced last Tuesday that it has officially signed a deal with the Shanghai-based Fudan University to open a campus in Budapest by 2024. But the massive investment plan has come under fire from critics, including Karacsony.
“They want to bring in a university, which is indeed a serious university on the international level, but its charter requires that it represent the worldview of the Chinese Communist Party,” the capital’s mayor said on Sunday. “We see very serious national security risks in this investment.”
Likewise, a Budapest-based think tank associated the Fudan campus with the risk of espionage. Peter Kreko, director of Political Capital, warned that the campus would serve China’s ambition to extend soft power and influence through education programs and investments.
According to Associated Press, Hungarian officials insist that the agreement will help raise higher education standards in the Central European nation and bring in Chinese investment and research.
But government documents obtained by Hungarian investigative news outlet Direkt36 revealed that pretax construction costs for the campus are estimated at US$1.8 billion, more than the US$1.3 billion Hungary spent on its high education system in 2019.
The construction will also be excluded from E.U. procurement rules as it is subject to a Chinese-Hungarian bilateral agreement. It will be carried out using mostly Chinese materials and labor, according to the documents.
“The Chinese are doing everything, while we’re doing only one thing: paying,” Karacsony said. “Until the government provides full disclosure of all the details of the project, we have nothing to negotiate about, which means that we will not give our consent to the construction of the Chinese university.”
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