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Government to Protect Students from the European Commission’s Erasmus+ Decision

Mariann Őry 2023.01.18.

Finance Minister Mihály Varga said that the state will finance the Erasmus+ program for Hungarians if the dispute with the European Commission is not settled. He accused the Brussels group of double standards. 

“We will not allow students to be the victims of any decision by Brussels,” Finance Minister Mihály Varga said in Brussels, referring to the European Commission’s decision to suspend the Erasmus+ and Horizon Europe programs for Hungarian universities run by public trust funds with politicians on the board of trustees.

He added that the Hungarian budget will pay the costs of the Erasmus+ program if the dispute with the European Commission cannot be settled.

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“Education is a member states’ competence, but the Commission is criticizing the way Hungarian universities are run by foundations, which has been common practice in international higher education for decades,” Varga pointed out, adding that examples can be found in America, Germany, Austria, Estonia, France, and Belgium, where the current criticism has come from.

In many places, politicians who are also members of the European Parliament, for example, hold positions in these foundations, which the Commission has so far found nothing wrong with,

he said, citing the examples of MEPs Angelika Niebler and Andreas Schwaab from the EPP, who are on the Board of Trustees of the Technical University of Munich and the Advisory Board of the University of Freiburg, and Estonian Socialist MEP Marina Kaljürand, who has been on the Board of Trustees of Tallinn University since 2010.

Bernadett Petri, a researcher at the National University of Public Service, criticized the European Commission’s decision in an article, analyzing its excessive nature. She also pointed out that education is a national competence. She stressed that the issue of universities could be resolved, but that “Erasmus is not only an EU program, but also a symbol that participants identify with European unity. It is feared that by restricting participation in the Erasmus program, the EU institutions are now putting at risk the public trust that they are invoking to defend the rule of law proceedings against Hungary.”

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