Norway will increase its support for the European Humanities University (EHU) from its present level of 3 million Norwegian kroner per year (approximately €408,000) to 5 million Norwegian kroner per year (approximately €680,000). The increased level of support will be provided for the next three years for a total of 2 million euro.
The decision was announced in Oslo by Norway’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Jonas Gahr Støre at a meeting with leaders of the Vilnius-based Belarusian university.
“The idea of a free university is a cornerstone of European democracy and freedom. You are carrying that torch for your country,” said the Foreign Minister.
The Minister spoke at a public seminar entitled “Belarus: a Hard Case in Europe”, hosted by the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs and the University of Oslo in collaboration with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He was joined by EHU’s Rector Anatoli Mikhailov and Senior Researcher Geir Flikke, who discussed the situation in Belarus and European policies towards the country.
In his remarks to students, faculty, and guests, Støre noted the lack of freedom young people face in Belarus:
“They cannot hold meetings with whom they like without risk, they cannot write what they like or speak their voice in the streets.”
“The people of Belarus are our neighbors. Belarus is a European country and one day it will belong to Europe in an appropriate way,” predicted Støre.
Though he lamented the grim political reality that prevents Europe from developing the kinds of ties it would like to have with Belarus, the Minister urged the audience not to associate the people and the country only with its authoritarian government.
Mikhailov noted that Belarus has proven a particularly vexing challenge for European foreign policy, which, he said, needs to be rethought. EHU’s Rector stressed that successful post-totalitarian transformation requires a sufficient number of citizens with the intellectual capacity to understand and carry out difficult but necessary reforms—something the current environment in Belarus inhibits.
Støre said he was pleased that Oslo University’s Faculty of Law is hosting four EHU low residence (distance learning program) law students. Academic cooperation between Oslo University and EHU is expected to continue.