BUDAPEST (Reuters) – Hungary will amend legislation in March to address Brussels’ concerns about government-linked politicians holding seats on university boards in order to restore European Union funding for students and teachers, a Hungarian minister said on Thursday.
Minister Tibor Navracsics, in charge of Hungary’s European Union funding, did not spell out what the amendment would be, but told Hungarian state news agency MTI, that the EU’s Erasmus scholarship scheme, where students can study in different countries, and Horizon Europe research programmes were “not under threat”.
Changing the situation is “no obstacle” for the government and will require two “not too complicated” amendments, he added according to MTI.
The European Commission has cut off some Hungarian universities from EU funding for Erasmus and Horizon that sponsors thousands of students’ and teachers’ stays at foreign universities, saying Hungary had not changed its practice of nominating politicians close to the government on to boards of 21 colleges that are run by so called “public trust foundations”.
The issue is part of an ongoing dispute between Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s government and Brussels over Hungary’s judiciary independence, academic freedoms, LGBT rights and the asylum system.
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The Commission in December said it would hold back all 22 billion euros of its EU cohesion funds for Hungary until its government met their conditions.
Navracsics, who held talks in Brussels with the EU’s budget commissioner Johannes Hahn and education commissioner Mariya Gabriel on Wednesday, said on his Facebook page on Thursday: “We will remedy the concerns raised during the talks and thus we will ensure unlimited access to these programmes in the long run.”
A Commission spokesperson said Hahn and Gabriel restated to Hungary the importance of implementing “remedial” measures.
(Reporting by Krisztina Than, additional reporting by Jan Strupczewski in Brussels; Editing by Vin Shahrestani)
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