Key to Europe

October started with a worrying statement from the Chair of the Committee on Budgets of the European Parliament, Mr. Alain Lamassoure: “We have not foreseen in the 2012 budget enough credit payments … so the cohesion funds are at risk, also the European Social Fund, the Erasmus and life-long learning programmes, and even the research and innovation programmes”. [1]

These words, coming from inside the European Parliament’s Committee on Budgets, shocked the European society, and especially the students. Surprisingly, what called the attention of the media was mostly the mentioning of the Erasmus Programme, making it seem like the lack of funding for cohesion funds, science or the European Social Fund are not equally important. Nevertheless, for AEGEE-Europe, the European Students’ Forum, the impact of a lack of funding for the Lifelong Learning Programmes would be significant. For this reason, AEGEE has been following the issue during the past days.

After the statement of Mr. Lamassoure, most of the Ministers of Education of the member states hurried to reassure students and their families that their grants are secured. While this may be true for the first semester of the 2012/2013 academic year, there are serious doubts for those students who will travel abroad during the second semester. On Friday, 5th October, the European Commission published an article on the topic in its news section about Education and Training. The title already caused more worries instead of calming down the situation: Erasmus students: don’t panic (yet)! The article clearly implied that the European Commission is still trying to convince the European Parliament and the member states to provide satisfactory funding for these programmes for the second semester of the academic year.

We understand that Mr. Lamassoure’s statement was made in a context of ongoing negotiations for the 2013 budget, as well as difficulties in fulfilling all the compromises with an estimated deficit of 10 billion Euros for 2012. However, we feel that this message casts doubts on the future of this project, when we should be celebrating the positive impact on society of 25 years of the Erasmus programme – one of the most successful initiatives of the European Union -, and finding ways to make it more inclusive to reach more students.

For thousands of students all over Europe, the possibility to become an Erasmus student is now. They have already arranged everything to study abroad this year, and they are ready for an experience that will enrich both their curriculum and their personality. Moreover, Erasmus is the best tool of the European Union to create a truly European Identity, which in the face of rising nationalism is more needed than ever. The uncertainty around the funding might cause some of these young Europeans to cancel their participation. Therefore, we demand that the European Commission and the bodies responsible for the funding issue a clear message confirming that the grants for the Erasmus Programme are guaranteed not only for the whole 2012/2013 academic year, but for the upcoming years as well. Any reduction in the funding will increase inequality among young people, and could make Erasmus a privilege of wealthy students instead of a right for everyone. Only adequate funding can develop the programme into a real Erasmus for All, which after all is the name of the Commission’s proposal for the years 2014-2020. AEGEE demands an increase in the number of mobility grants and an ambitious future funding for these programmes to make sure that every year students can reinforce their European identity by studying abroad.

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