As a reaction to Orbán's policies

No more EU grants for 21 Hungarian universities

Hongaarse premier Viktor Orbán. Bron: Wikipedia
The Hungarian Prime-Minister Viktor Orbán. Photo: Wikipedia

A significant number of cultural and educational institutions in Hungary will stop getting funds from EU programmes such as Horizon Europe and Erasmus+. A total of 21 universities are among the institutions affected.

Joep Bresser is a Policy Officer at Neth-ER, an organisation representing the interests of Dutch education and research in Brussels. He explains that the European Commission is looking to protect the block's budget against breaches of the principles of the rule of law. For many years, the European Union has been looking at Hungary with suspicion. At the end of 2022, Brussels approved a bill in that direction, which has been in force since December.

How much money is Hungary going to lose?
“All in all, the country risks losing 6.3 billion euros in EU subsidies until 2027. According to the European Commission, the Hungarian universities in question have received around 52 million euros in Horizon research grants since 2014. In 2020, Hungary got roughly 60 million euros in Erasmus+ grants. The country will only get EU subsidies again if Orbán's government improves the situation.”

What situation are we talking about? Why are Hungarian universities being punished?
“These universities have been run by public foundations these past few years, with sitting politicians of Orbán's Fidesz party on the Supervisory Board. For a long time, EU has been expressing concerns over this conflict of interests and Orbán’s intervention in other areas of society, such as the press.” 

Isn't there a risk that EU will also hit the remaining academics who are critical of the government by employing sanctions of this kind?
“Yes, that’s the major dilemma. Universities and educational institutions play an important role in driving the social debate. Students and researchers are the likely victims. They are the very people you want to bring in contact with people from other countries. The fact that it took so long to reach consensus on withdrawing the funds attests that it wasn’t an easy decision.” 

Are the exchanges of Erasmus students going to be affected?
“Hungarian institutions are no longer eligible for project applications submitted after December 16, 2022. Exchange projects that were in place at that time will run for two more years. After that, exchanges between those universities will not be possible anymore, according to the National Agency Erasmus+. That applies to the Netherlands as well. Unless the situation in Hungary improves, of course."

According to Neth-ER, in the past few years, Dutch higher education institutions collaborated on nearly 100 projects with the 21 Hungarian institutions in question. The Dutch institutions received 74 million euros in grants for those projects. 

Read more: former campus columnist Lili Szarvas, from Budapest, recently commented on the political situation in her country, in an op-ed titled Dark clouds above Hungary