March 30, 2012

Hungarian president loses doctorate in plagiarism case

Semmelweis University has stripped Hungarian President Pál Schmitt of his doctoral degree after determining that he copied much of his thesis from other sources, prompting opposition politicians to call for his resignation, the Hungarian media reported.

The university's rector announced the decision yesterday (29 March) after a review panel determined that 180 pages of the 215-page dissertation on the Olympic Games were similar to other work, and that 17 pages were identical.

The Hungarian magazine HGV first reported in January that a large part of Schmitt's dissertation, written in 1992, appeared to copy from a work by the late Bulgarian researcher Nikolay Georgiev's Analyse duprogramme olympique (des Jeux d'Olympiade). The issue raised considerable media interest in Bulgaria.

Schmitt's entourage at first tried to explain that he had written his thesis together with the Bulgarian author, now deceased. But it soon became clear that Georgiev wrote his research several years earlier.

Hungary's four parliamentary opposition parties have urged Schmitt to resign amidst growing media pressure.

Schmitt, 69, has held the mostly ceremonial post of president since 2010. He served as an ambassador during the 1990s, and was a vice president of the European Parliament from 2009 to 2010. After briefly serving as speaker of the National Assembly of Hungary in 2010, Schmitt was elected as president by a 263-59 margin in the Parliament with the support of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.

Schmitt was a successful fencer in his youth, winning Olympic gold medals. He later became the chief of protocol of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and presided over the World Olympians Association between 1999 and 2007.


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