Ministry refuses an education contract with Gábor Iványi’s church
Another 95 mn HUF (264,500 €) withdrawn from educational institutions for socially disadvantaged children
Hungary’s Ministry of Human Resources will withdraw a further 95m HUF in the coming school year from public education bodies run by the Hungarian Evangelical Fellowship (MET). This will damage the education of almost 2500 socially disadvantaged children and the jobs of some 500 people working with them full time. MET seeks to gain the auxiliary funding allowed to churches officially endorsed by the state.
State Secretary Zoltán Maruzsa informed MET in June 2021 that the Ministry will no longer, in the coming school year, draw up an extra contract with it for public education tasks beyond the educational norm. This loses MET a further 95 mn forints for the schools it runs, which will endanger their future work.
The present status
The church status of MET has been unsettled since 2012 in to the absence of a parliamentary decision, despite several legislative changes, and of relevant decisions by the law courts. The church law that came into force in 2012 deprived MET of its previous status as a church, forcing it to take the form of an association instead. This loss of status runs counter to the terms of the basic law on churches, which states (6/2013 (III.8.) that such a change of status to an association cannot be enforced. The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg ruled in 2014 that previous churches could not lose their status, that the new church law conflicted with the European Agreement on Human Rights; Hungary had to pay MET damages to compensate for the losses from deprival of its church status (the budgetary supports provided to registered churches).
Based on the new church law, MET again took proceedings to regain its church status. In this respect the Ministry in 2014 had set out in law various objective conditions (e. g. number of members, existence for a minimum of 20 years, absence of national security risks, etc.), over which the National Assembly was to make the final decision. The National Assembly failed to clear the matter up between 2014 and 2019. On 15 April 2019, the law on the churches was amended, and MET had to institute further proceedings to meet new requirements for official status. In September 2020, the court ruled that MET counted as a religious association under the law and that the process of gaining the higher status of a church was in process before the Capital City Court, but continuing calls to meet further requirements have blocked any final verdict so far.
We at MET can begin a further case at Strasbourg once Hungary’s legal proceedings have been completed. The delays will certainly prompt us to make further compensation claims.
Absence of a Ministry education contract for the coming school year
The first public-education contract was made between the Ministry and MET in 2012. This expressly included that the passage of the contract should include compensation for the delay, for MET had been deprived of its church status and thereby the support provided for the churches under public education law.
The first five-year public education agreement covered the period 2012─2017, and the support provided in that matched the sum specified in the law on the budget. The contracts since have been for one year. Since 2019 they have maximized the number of children to be supported and strongly reduced the sum concerned, which is now equivalent to only half the support according to the budget law: a maximum of 1900 pupils and 100,000 forints a year, i.e., 190,000,000 forints in total. The contract for 2020─2021 reduced the support further, so that our institutions received a total of only 95,000,000 forints. For the 2021─2022 school year there will be no support at all, according to the statement by Zoltán Maruzsa.
Two of the MET schools offer specialist training, in Borsod-Abaúj-Zemplén és Szabolcs-Szatmár-Bereg counties. They provide specialist trainers for the building industry, catering, beauty treatment, forestry, agriculture and social branches, and a two-year supplementary course to the school-leaving certificate. Since such specialist institutions passed into the control of the Technology Ministry in the 2020─2021 school year, MET applied to that ministry also for support, but none was received.
MET called on the Hungarian Government to cease this continuing breach of the law and provide the supplementary supports to the institutions maintained by MET, as it does for such institutions run by registered churches. Based on the 2021 budget law, the registered churches receive the following support: 200,000 forints per pupil per year, with no curb on numbers, and MET wishes to receive the same. Denial of a public education contract marks a new stage in the political attack on MET.