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At the end of December 2022, the European Commission informed the Tempus Public Foundation (TPF) – ACA’s member and the organisation that serves as the national agency for the Erasmus+ programme in Hungary – that based on the Council Implementing Decision (EU) 2022/2506, no legal commitments can be entered into with any public interest trust established on the basis of the Hungarian Act IX of 2021 or any entity maintained by such public interest. In practice, this meant freezing, inter alia, access to Erasmus+ and Horizon Europe funds for Hungarian higher education institutions overseen by public trust foundations. At present, 21 of the Hungarian universities are managed by such public trust foundations, i.e. their governing bodies have government officials and political figures as members that also have responsibilities for the allocation of funds at national level.
On 26 January 2023, Mariya Gabriel (Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth) and Johannes Hahn (Commissioner for Budget and Administration), following talks with Tibor Navracsics, Hungary’s minister of regional development (and former EU Commissioner for Education) clarified, via a joint statement, the implications of this decision for funding applications under the Erasmus+ and Horizon Europe programmes, inter alia.
The background: The integration of educational and cultural institutions under public trust foundations started in 2021, when the Hungarian Parliament voted to transfer control of 11 state universities, along with billions of EUR in related state assets, to ‘public foundations‘ led by political figures close to the country’s prime minister, Viktor Orban, a measure that was highly contested internationally at the time. The December 2022 decision is based on EU’s rule of law conditionality mechanism, which the European Commission launched at the end of April 2021. The conditionality regulation holds that the rule of law is one of the founding values of the EU and is key to the sound financial management of the EU budget - and the effective use of its funding. Despite some legislative changes in Hungary in 2022, the European Commission has assessed that the country has not adopted all the necessary reforms, deciding to freeze funds from European funds flowing to such institutions in Hungary.
At present, the suspension measure is seen as temporary and does not directly restrict the rest of the higher education system in Hungary. The measures will remain in force until further notice from the European Commission, while Minister Navracsics has shown some interest to find a speedy solution.
The Tempus Public Foundation (TPF) is already in contact with other National Agencies over a smooth approach in the current situation. TPF is looking forward to applications by the deadlines published on its website. Once submitted, the applications will be assessed on basis of the provisions of the European Commission's Erasmus+ programme guide. Grant decisions will be taken based on further information from the Commission.
In order to preserve the international embeddedness of Hungarian higher education and to maintain existing and future cooperation, TPF supports finding a solution to the current situation, with all means at its disposal.