Experts: Hungary president's thesis largely copied

AP News
Posted: Mar 27, 2012 12:56 PM
Experts: Hungary president's thesis largely copied

A committee charged with investigating allegations of plagiarism against Hungary's president said the politician had written a doctoral dissertation that directly copied several pages from one publication and borrowed heavily from another one.

But the panel also noted that Pal Schmitt had identified these publications in the bibliography of his 1992 dissertation, and it did not use the word "plagiarism" in a three-page summary of its findings made public Tuesday. Instead, the panel shifted blame toward the University of Physical Education, saying it should have noticed and called attention to Schmitt's "unusually extensive" copying.

The findings drew the ire of Hungary's main opposition parties, who demanded that Schmitt resign as president. But the governing Fidesz party _ which Schmitt once helped lead as its vice president and which backed his election in 2010 _ said it now "considers the matter closed."

Internet publication uncovered Schmitt's copying in January and first raised the plagiarism issue. The five-member investigative committee at Budapest's Semmelweis University, to which Schmitt's alma mater now belongs, included four university professors and a lawyer.

The full 1,157-page report has not been released to the public. It was forwarded to Miklos Rethelyi, Hungary's Minister of National Resources, who oversees educational matters and is expected to give his opinion on the subject.

The lawyer, Akos Fluck, wrote a dissenting opinion, which also has not been made public.

Schmitt's thesis was titled "Analysis of the programs of the modern Olympic Games."

The committee found that 17 pages of Schmitt's thesis were a direct translation of a book by Klaus Heinemann published in 1991, while a further 180 pages of the 215-page thesis showed "partial similarity" to a 1987 work by Bulgarian sports official Nikolay Georgiev, a former member of the International Olympic Committee.

Several of the tables and diagrams in Schmitt's thesis were also taken from Georgiev's publication, some with slight alterations, the committee said.

It added that while the dissertation lacked footnotes, citations and quotation marks, had a haphazard biography and numerous other flaws, the proceedings which resulted in Schmitt's doctorate complied with the university's formal requirements of the time.

"The University of Physical Education made a professional error when it failed to uncover in time this sameness of texts and therefore the author of the paper may have believed that his dissertation meets expectations," the committee said in its summary.

Schmitt, a former Olympic fencing champion and a member of the IOC since 1983, was elected in mid-2010 for a five-year term as president.

While the presidential role is mostly ceremonial, Schmitt has been heavily criticized for failing to scrutinize some of the most disputed laws of Prime Minister Viktor Orban's government, such as a new constitution, media law, church law and judicial reforms.

The Constitutional Court has ruled that changes must be made to some of those laws, which have also drawn closely scrutiny from the European Union.

Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, the former German defense minister, resigned last March after allegations he had copied large parts of his doctoral thesis without attribution. Guttenberg vehemently denied cheating but admitted making "grave mistakes" with the thesis.