There is no threat to the continuation of the Erasmus+ program, and the 180,000 Hungarian students who currently attend foundation universities will continue to benefit from the EU initiative, the Hungarian minister in charge of EU funds, Tibor Navracsics, said in Brussels on Wednesday.
The same applies to the Horizon Europe program, for which applications will continue to be accepted, he added.
As Remix News reported two weeks ago, the European Commission suspended 21 of the country’s universities from the Erasmus+ student exchange and educational cooperation program. It said the country had not changed its practice of nominating politicians close to the government to the boards of the institutions, something it claims attacks academic freedom.
The 21 universities include all of Hungary’s most prestigious universities, such as the Budapest Technical University and the Semmelweis medical university, and teach 70 percent of the country’s higher-education students.
Navracsics stressed that Hungary would continue negotiations with the European Commission, whose representatives consider it a conflict of interest that almost half of the 21 universities run by foundations have politicians on their boards of trustees.
“If the Commission raises the issue that they should not be members, we can solve this by regulation,” he said. He added that the government could also address the lack of term limits by simply implementing these.
The European Commission’s decision means Hungarian educational institutions that operate as public interest trusts or are maintained by such trusts will not be eligible for fresh grants from the EU-funded Erasmus+ cooperation and education exchange program, as well as the Horizon Europe research and innovation framework program.
Navracsics previously said the Hungarian government was aware of Brussels’ concerns, so it amended the rules for public interest foundations in line with the EU body’s request. Accordingly, foundations are now also subject to the Public Procurement Act and members of the boards of trustees are subject to strict conflict of interest rules.