Hungary ready to sue EU commission for pulling plug on Erasmus scholarships

Building of the Budapest Technical University. (Wikimedia Commons)
By Dénes Albert
3 Min Read

The European Commission’s decision to exclude universities run by foundations from the European Union’s Erasmus+ program is unacceptable, Cabinet Minister Gergely Gulyás said on Thursday in a briefing after Wednesday’s cabinet meeting.

As Remix News reported, the European Commission has suspended over 20 of the country’s universities from the Erasmus+ student exchange and educational cooperation program.

The European Commission’s claim that the boards of trustees manually influence the teaching and research work of universities is not true, as the research activities of the institutions are independent of the functioning of the boards of trustees, Minister for EU Funds Tibor Navracsics said earlier.

Commenting on the EU commission’s decision, Gulyás said, “There has never been such an example in the EU.”

The minister said that the Hungarian government had not received any request from Brussels to exclude members of the government from the boards of trustees, and the commission itself had acknowledged this.

In Western Europe too, active politicians sit on the boards of trustees. The government has acted as Brussels requested, Gergely Gulyás added.

“We don’t know what they want, we need to clarify it first,” the minister said, adding that Tibor Navracsics will discuss the matter in Brussels next week.

“I would call this a misunderstanding at best, but I would rather call it an incorrectness,” the minister said, adding that the cabinet hoped it was a misunderstanding. If the matter is not resolved, Hungary will pay for next year’s Erasmus scholarships.

In 2020 and 2021, the Hungarian government transferred 21 previously state-owned universities, whose boards also include politicians, to public trusts. The 21 include all of Hungary’s most prestigious universities, such as the Budapest Technical University and the Semmelweis medical university, with the institutions responsible for teaching 70 percent of the country’s higher-education students.

Arguing in favor of the change of model for how universities are run in Hungary, the minister said Hungarian universities had moved up in international rankings, with 11 institutions in the top 500.

Gulyás stressed that he was confident there was simply a misunderstanding between the commission and the government on the conflict-of-interest rules, but that the government would take legal action against the commission’s decision if necessary.

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