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EU Measure Could Starve Hungarian Universities

Mariann Őry 2023.01.11.
Hungarian universities

Hungarian universities that operate as public trust foundations or are maintained by such foundations will not receive fresh grants from the EU-funded Erasmus+ exchange and Horizon Europe research and innovation programs, Népszava reports.

In total, the ban affects 21 Hungarian universities  – including prestigious institutions such as Corvinus University, University of Veterinary Medicine, or Semmelweis University, and all the major universities outside the capital that received significant funds from these programs, and for whom foreign students are very important.

According to Népszava, the universities were targeted by the EU because “their operating model did not ensure the transparent management of EU funds, as neither public procurement nor conflict of interest rules applied to them.” “Under pressure from Brussels, the Hungarian parliament amended the relevant laws last autumn, but despite the EU’s warning, it did not change the rule allowing senior political officials to sit on the foundations’ governing bodies,” it adds. A spokesman told the newspaper that the decision is temporary.

During the previous negotiations, the European Commission raised concerns, but these were addressed, so we do not understand their current move,

Tibor Navracsics, Minister of Regional Development, who is also responsible for the use of EU funds, told Magyar Nemzet. He pointed out that the Commission’s decision also means that students from non-foundation universities can participate in Erasmus programs, while those from foundation universities cannot, which is discriminatory.

“Previously, in line with their request we amended the law, we amended the rules, we complied with both points that they had previously objected to in this regard,” Navracsics recalled, referring to the two demands the Commission had previously made: one was that public trust foundation procurements should also be subject to public procurement procedures, and the other was that the government should develop a strict set of conflict of interest rules.

Navracsics is writing to Johannes Hahn, the European Commissioner for Budget and Administration, and Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, to ask for more information on what exactly their problem is and how they see it being addressed.

Navracsics told RTL Klub that in the negotiations so far,

the European Commission has not objected to politicians sitting on university boards of trustees.

The minister added that the government would consider it if the European Commission asked them to remove politicians from university boards of trustees because of the strict conflict of interest rule.

Hungary Open to Negotiations with the European Commission
Hungary Open to Negotiations with the European Commission

The government has done its utmost to release EU funds, according to Minister Tibor Navracsics.Continue reading

According to an editorial in Magyar Nemzet, the Hungarian opposition saw in the student and teacher protests the possibility of overthrowing the government. The author says they attack the public foundation system because it disrupts the “hegemony of the post-communist elite,” and that they can only interpret academic freedom as “only progressive views can prevail.”

It is incomprehensible that their accusations, based on smears and slanderous lies, are so effectively embedded in the decision-making mechanism of the European Commission,”

says the author. He stressed that the Commission’s decision harms Hungarian students. According to the article in Magyar Nemzet, it is ironic that Hungarian universities are being accused of corruption, while a huge corruption scandal has broken out in the European Parliament, and Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has been reprimanded for negotiating the purchase of vaccines with Pfizer by text message, which she did not even give to the authorities, claiming that they had been lost.

Featured photo via Facebook/Budapesti Corvinus Egyetem

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