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The EU Must Spare Young Hungarians

Erasmus+ and Horizon Europe support not only learning and innovation, but also the sharing of values and culture – the building blocks of a successful, unified EU. By cutting Hungarian universities off from these programs, the European Commission is thus undermining the Union itself.

BUDAPEST – The European Commission has decided to suspend funding to 21 Hungarian universities from its Horizon Europe initiative, which supports cross-border collaboration on research and development, and its Erasmus+ study-abroad program. The aim is to defend the rule of law: the universities in question are run by “public trust foundations,” which are not subject to EU public-procurement rules and include individuals with close ties to the government. In fact, it is difficult to imagine a more misguided and counterproductive decision.

To be sure, in the face of possible corruption and conflicts of interest, the European Union has the legal authority and obligation to take appropriate action, including freezing or withdrawing some funds. But cutting Hungarian universities off from Erasmus+ and Horizon Europe funding will do far more harm than good.

Erasmus+ funding enables students to spend time at foreign universities. Over the last three decades, more than ten million young people – equivalent to the entire population of Hungary – have benefited from Erasmus+ (and its predecessor programs), making it one of Europe’s most powerful instruments for supporting integration. In 2020, more than 22,000 Hungarians participated in Erasmus+ exchanges.