As we recently reported, the Hungarian government received a letter from the European Commission (EC) in which they informed them about the withdrawal of Erasmus support in regard to Hungarian foundation universities. Even though the government argued the EC had never indicated that they were concerned about the involvement of government politicians in university foundations, the Commission claims otherwise.
Following the Minister for Regional Development, Tibor Navracsics’ comment saying they were baffled by the case, Szabad Európa contacted the EC. The Commission confirmed that it had already informed the Hungarian government last year that
in the case of universities run by foundations, the transparency of the use of EU funds in the public interest was not ensured.
The Commission added that the Hungarian government had made commitments to resolve the issue. For this purpose, the government has amended two laws. However, the EC’s concern that senior political officials hold seats in the management boards of the trust foundations has not been addressed.
Although the European Commission’s decision concern thousands of students and teachers, it seems that the Hungarian politicians are reluctant to give up their board positions. In total, there are 21 universities that used to be state-funded institutions in the past, but the government has reorganised their management into trust foundations.
These foundations are
mainly run by Fidesz ministers, state secretaries, politicians or people with close ties to Fidesz,
Szabad Európa points out.
Furthermore, many of them receive a salary of HUF 1-1.5 million (EUR 2500-3800) for holding university foundation positions. Among the members of the board of trustees, there is, for instance, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó at Széchenyi István University, and the then Minister of Justice Judit Varga at the University of Miskolc.
The Minister for Regional Development, Navracsics, who is also the chairman of the board of trustees at the University of Pannonia, told RTL that the government would certainly take it into consideration if the European Commission asked them to remove politicians from the university’s foundation board.
When asked if he would be willing to step down as head of the board of trustees, he only replied:
We will see how it goes.
Source: Szabad Európa, RTL