Culture / Politics

Will the crisis lead to the end of ERASMUS?

For some time already, a mobilisation has been taking place to defend the mythic and famous student mobility program threatened by the important cuts made by the Member States and the European Commission in the draft budget 2013. 

Alain Lamassoure, French MEP of the EPP Group and chairman of the Budget Committee, worried about the evolution and the long-term effects of such behaviour, gave the alarm. Since then, many associations and other actors of the civil society are mobilized across the EU in favour of ERASMUS, e.g. the collective #Save ERASMUS on the web.

For those who do not know yet ERASMUS, it is a European programme aimed at promoting and facilitating student mobility in Europe. Created in 1987, ERASMUS quickly became a success and was overwhelmingly adopted by students who could enjoy an exchange or a working experience (an internship) in another EU Member State.

More than a simple European programme, ERASMUS, throughout the years, imposed itself as one of the clearest and most important symbols of the European Union, to such extent that it contributes to the construction of the European identity. There are a lot of examples, such as the famous film of the French director Cédric Klapisch, “L’Auberge espagnole”, released in June 2002 and which become a real phenomenon of society.

The threat upon the ERASMUS programme is a bad signal sent to all the Europeans, especially the younger generation. At a moment when the Union is experiencing a growing citizens’ distrust and the Member States have increasing difficulties to speak with one voice against the crisis, the European integration should give some guarantees regarding its credibility and viability. This supposes popular initiatives, (by definition) accessible to everyone.

ERASMUS is part of these programmes which are indisputably very popular. Since its creation, more than 2.5 million of Europeans could benefit from the program (via the attribution of a scholarship) and the tendency is still increasing. More than a simple student stay in another Member-State, ERASMUS is a genuine gateway to discover and understand Europe and the Europeans, which supposes experiencing and sharing common things. Behind this programme, there is a spirit, the idea to build a citizenship and the feeling of being part of an identity which is complementary or goes past the national ones. It is the idea that beyond the studying of Political science, History, Physics or Economics in English, Dutch, Romanian, Spanish or German, it is a vivre ensemble and a European melting pot which are put forward. As claimed so well by the trailer of L’Auberge espagnole, it is a place where no one speaks the same language but everyone understands you!

Is the crisis going to lead to the end of ERASMUS? All is going to depend on the capacity of (young) European citizens to be mobilized to express their attachment to a programme which proved its effectiveness in the building of a real European space. Thus, it would be hazardous for Member States to question a really mobilizing and popular programme, even if they are constrained to some imperatives due to the crisis.

Gilles Johnson

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