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The Nordic Council of Ministers has decided, this May, to conclude its funding for the Lithuanian-based European Humanities University (EHU). The decision is stated to result from new priority areas for funding and budget restructurings, that connect to greater investment needs for co-operative integration measures, relating to the refugee crises – one of the Council of Ministers’ key international priorities 2017.
EHU, also known as the Belarusian University in Exile and originally located in Minsk, had to forcefully shut its doors in 2004 on orders or the Education Ministry, the Universities Rector and academic staff refusing to comply with governmental directives. Belarusian authorities regarding the University as a hub of dissenters and breeding-ground for resistance, the international community, in an act to defend democratic values stepped up in 2006 to support the university in an collaborative effort of the Nordic countries, the EU, USA and others. The initial agreement between the European Commission and the Nordic Council of Ministers granted the University a EUR 2.78 Million strong support package to provide education for 350 students over a ten year time frame. With the establishment of the EHU-Trust Fund in 2009, the Council of Minsters taking the key role of facilitator, the University received EUR 1 million as part of the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR) Annual Action program.
The Nordic Council of Ministers decision to step back from its key financial and facilitative position towards EHU, is also linked to the outcome of a process evaluating the role and purpose of the university as well as repeatedly observed internal divisions, detracting from its critical activities. Beyond this several media channels speculate that the decision to end support might stem from scandals relating to the recently appointed Rector and the three 2015-16 audits initiated by donors under suspicions of mismanagement, leading to temporary freezes in financing and lifted later on. EHU Student Union states the future of EHU to be on the agenda in June during the meeting of the Governing Board.
The exiled university’s key resolve for securing support, was based on its former leadership’s courage to refuse authoritative forces and the decline intellectual input from the EU, now the situation seems reversed and long term uncertainty about its leadership might cost it’s demise – the question reaming if the EC and/or other donors will continue to provide support or exile it from funding sources.