About the Institute
Eötvös Károly Institute was created in January 2003 by the Soros Foundation in order to establish a novel, unconventional institutional framework for shaping democratic public affairs in Hungary. Acting hand in hand with other entities, including advocacy groups, watchdog organizations, and other institutions, EKINT wishes to contribute to raising professional and general public awareness and to shaping the political agenda in issues with an impact on the quality of relations between citizens and public power. The Institute is deeply committed to the liberal interpretation of constitutionality, constitutional democracy, and individual rights, and labors to support initiatives instrumental in bringing about a civil political culture inspired by the spirit of solidarity. Thus the Institute is ready to join forces with any organization or individual working to improve the destiny of a democratic Republic of Hungary founded on the principle of equality, no matter where they place the emphasis and what worldview guides them in their pursuit. With its limited means and resources, EKINT is dedicated to continuing and bolstering the tradition of 19th-century Hungarian liberalism, 20th-century progressive democratic thought, and the legislative process that culminated in the creation of the Constitution of the Third Republic. We strive to uphold the spirit of Károly Eötvös, the statesman from whom we have borrowed the name for our Institute, by combining theoretical arguments on behalf of liberal democracy with practical political action.
EKINT pursues three different types of activity, and therefore addresses three different types of audience. Through issuing positions on momentous political issues, hosting conferences, and authoring various publications and announcements, we seek to directly reach the general public, the entirety of the democratic political community. Thereby we wish to foster a higher level of legal awareness among the echelons of government and society at large, optimally even swaying the practitioners of public power in the decisions they make.
Secondly, we turn to political decision makers indirectly by drafting specific policy proposals, concepts, and background studies, with a view to representing a constitutional, liberal perspective in regulatory issues and marshaling arguments for action plans conceived in a kindred spirit.
Thirdly, the Institute engages in conducting long-term surveys and studies investigating the condition of certain institutions of the democratic republic, such as the courts, the municipalities, and the law enforcement agencies, and of certain public services, including education, health care, culture support etc. The intended audience of these investigations consists of professionals. By broadening the horizons of professional and political debate on the above mentioned institutions and services, we hope to bring reliable information and a sound perspective to public decisions to be made further down the line.
Our aim is to win public recognition for the Institute in Hungary as an independent voice, authenticated by its dedication to the cause of democracy and the consistently high standards of its positions, that will serve as a landmark point of orientation for those scrutinizing the state of the Republic. Another aspiration of ours is that the Institute be regarded as a potential partner by any existing and future government, regardless of world view and basic stance – not because we deliver the expected answers, but because our positions carry weight. We will not consider our labors fruitful unless we can say with confidence that our interventions have resulted in a demonstrable improvement of the relations between public power and the citizens.
Károly Eötvös (1842-1916)
Károly Eötvös was born on 11 March 1842 in the village of Mezőszentgyörgy to a gentry family who managed their own estate.
Following secondary studies in the Calvinist College of Pápa, in 1863 he started working for the County as a civil servant. He established a paper and became representative for the precinct of Veszprém at the age of 30. He joined Ferenc Deák’s Party and was named editor of Pesti Napló, the paper that served as the official organ of that party. In 1878 in Budapest he founded what was to become one of the first law firms in Hungary. At the same time, he was re-elected to Parliament on an opposition platform upholding the principles of 1848. Having served as a senior columnist for Egyetértés, the independence-partisan periodical, in 1881 he accepted a parliamentary mandate for the town of Nagykőrös.
1882 saw the start of the Tiszaeszlár blood libel. Károly Eötvös agreed to represent the defense at the trial. His involvement was frowned upon by his own Independence Party, and even the noted novelist Mikszáth was concerned over his role. During the Parliamentary elections of 1884, he ran for a seat in several districts, but failed to secure a mandate. The fiasco drove him to retire from politics for a while, until he was re-elected as Member of Parliament for Nagykőrös in 1887. In 1892 Eötvös was re-elected to represent Nagykőrös once again. Following the death of Dániel Irányi, he briefly served as president of the ’48 Independence Party. Until 1910, he remained Member of Parliament, mainly as an independent liberal representative.
Eötvös devoted most of the last decade of his life to his literary endeavors. Plans to publish his collected works were announced in the fall of 1900 and 24 volumes actually appeared in print over the next ten years. His opus entitled The Great Trial can be read as belles lettres, sociography, or a “proto-ombudsman’s report” -- certainly one of the most outstanding works in any of these genres.
He died on April 13, 1916.