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Navracsics to discuss Erasmus controversy in Brussels

March 8th, 2023

Concessions made so far by Hungary to satisfy EU conditions for allowing foundation-run universities to accede to student and researcher exchange programmes, seem to have been found unsatisfactory in Brussels. Columnists express diametrically opposing views on the matter.

Tibor Navracsics, the cabinet minister in charge of negotiations aimed at releasing frozen EU funds, is expected to meet competent members of the European Commission to smooth out misgivings over Hungary’s role-of-law compliance in general, and the 21 foundation-run universities in particular. Hungary is expected to satisfy EU conditions on rule-of law compliance by the end of March. (For the plan to exclude foundation-run universities from the Erasmus student exchange programme and the Horizon research exchange scheme, see BudaPost, January 12). The EC is reported ‘not to be satisfied’ by the decision of a dozen prominent government politicians to withdraw from the governing boards of the 21 public universities that have been taken over by government-funded foundations.

In Népszava, Dániel Juhász believes the new expectations of the European Commission miss the point. He welcomes the EU’s wish that all public servants and MPs should withdraw from the boards and that board membership should be limited to a maximum two 4-year terms (originally membership was meant to be life-long and in its latest scheme, the Hungarian side reduced it to two 9-year terms). Juhász thinks no such changes would prevent Fidesz from stuffing the boards with its own faithful – businessmen and the like.

In Magyar Nemzet, Tamás Pilhál welcomes a letter written by the rectors of the 21 foundation-run universities to EC President Ursula von der Leyen, which calls their planned exclusion from the Erasmus programme ‘disgraceful’ and demands compensation for the ‘moral and material damage’. The 21 universities, he writes, opted for the new system of public foundations with over two thirds of the votes in their senates. As a result, Pilhál continues, the number of international students attending them has increased by 65 percent and their international rankings are steadily improving. He believes the European Commission opposes that system because ‘they cannot accept that we are different’.

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