Erasmus + is probably one of the EU’s most famous and successful programme. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and European Parliament President Antonio Tajani marked this occasion last Tuesday in Strasbourg, where the programme was feted. With 33 countries participating in the programme, and over 9 million direct beneficiaries, Erasmus + shaped the identity of many Europeans and is still widely popular.
Initiated in 1987 with only 11 participating and 3,200 students, Erasmus has gradually evolved to encompass not only studying abroad, but also teaching, training and voluntary work abroad. It is still going strong today. More than 4 million people are expected to participate in this programme between 2014 and 2020, and benefiting from Erasmus + is becoming increasingly simpler.
Commissioner for Education and Culture, Youth and Sport Tibor Navracsis recently announced two new online features that will help Europeans to have a more efficient Erasmus experience. First, the Erasmus + mobile app will allow participants to do most of the paperwork online and on a single website instead of sometimes tedious procedures in both the host and the receiving institution. It will also include a local tips section, as well as some language learning features linked to the Erasmus + Online Linguistic Support platform. The European Commission also launched the Erasmus + Online meeting point, for those who want to exchange their views on the programme, or would like to share Erasmus + related events.
“Every euro that we invest in Erasmus+ is an investment in the future — in the future of a young person and of our European idea. I cannot imagine anything more worthy of our investment than these leaders of tomorrow. As we celebrate the 9 millionth person to take part, let’s make sure we are 9 times more ambitious with the future of the Erasmus+ programme.”, Juncker said. This might be why so many Europeans love this programme. It is education based, future oriented, and is also a formative and pleasant experience for the participants. Erasmus + can also be more than a formative experience: it is an origin story for at least 1 million young Europeans. The cross-border programme is said to be responsible for at least 1 million babies, and a study shows that over a quarter of the participants meet their long-term partner while studying or doing an internship abroad.
Umberto Eco, one of the most respected European writer and semiologist of his time, famously told “The Guardian” that “the Erasmus idea should be compulsory – not just for students, but also for taxi drivers, plumbers and other workers. By this, I mean they need to spend time in other countries within the European Union; they should integrate”. To him, the “Erasmus couples” and the “Erasmus babies” are “the first generation of young Europeans”. Beyond the successes in terms of skill training or language training, it is the creation of this new brand of Europeans that we should celebrate. It is a “concrete achievement” Robert Schuman was talking about. The legacy of Erasmus + can not be undone, and it should be extended to its full potential.