Hungary criticized the European Commission’s decision to stop supporting several of its universities, claiming that it had complied with the EU’s recommendations for change.
The European Commission declared in December that until Hungary’s government completed requirements relating to judicial independence, academic freedoms, LGBT rights, and the asylum system, it would withhold all 22 billion euros in EU cohesion funding from that country.
The EU Erasmus funding sponsors thousands of students’ and teachers’ stays at foreign universities. The Commission said Hungary had not changed its practice of nominating politicians close to the government on to boards of 21 tertiary colleges.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s chief of staff, Gergely Gulyas, told a briefing that the Commission decision, which affects institutions run by so called “public trust foundations”, was unjustified as Hungary had met Brussels’ requests for change.
Gulyas said that if negotiations with Brussels did not resolve the issue, Hungary would finance the Erasmus programmes for 2024 itself.
He also said Budapest was willing to take the case to the European Court of Justice as a last resort.
“What is happening with regards to Erasmus, from the side of the Commission versus Hungary, is unacceptable,” Gulyas said.
“We would like to find a fast solution,” he added, saying that Tibor Navracsics, the minister in charge of EU funds, would hold talks with the Commission next week.
Gulyas said Hungary would have accepted a demand from the Commission not to have active politicians or mayors on the board running the foundations, but there was no such request.