Procedure : 2015/2327(INI)
Document stages in plenary
Document selected : A8-0389/2016

Texts tabled :

A8-0389/2016

Debates :

PV 01/02/2017 - 20
CRE 01/02/2017 - 20

Votes :

PV 02/02/2017 - 7.7
CRE 02/02/2017 - 7.7

Texts adopted :

P8_TA(2017)0018

REPORT     
PDF 537kWORD 110k
18 January 2017
PE 587.695v03-00 A8-0389/2016

on the implementation of Regulation (EU) No 1288/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 December 2013 establishing ‘Erasmus+’: the Union programme for education, training, youth and sport and repealing Decisions No 1719/2006/EC, No 1720/2006/EC and No 1298/2008/EC

(2015/2327(INI))

Committee on Culture and Education

Rapporteur: Milan Zver

EXPLANATORY STATEMENT - SUMMARY OF FACTS AND FINDINGS
 MOTION FOR A EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT RESOLUTION
 OPINION of the Committee on Budgets
 OPINION of the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs
 RESULT OF FINAL VOTE IN COMMITTEE RESPONSIBLE

EXPLANATORY STATEMENT - SUMMARY OF FACTS AND FINDINGS

Procedure and sources

In September 2015, the rapporteur was entrusted with the task of preparing a report on the implementation of Council Regulation (EU) No 1288/2013 of 11 December 2013 establishing ‘Erasmus+’: the Union programme for education, training, youth and sport and repealing Decisions No 1719/2006/EC, No 1720/2006/EC and No 1298/2008/EC(1). Since then, the rapporteur has collected a high number of information extracted from various resources.

In particular, he received valuable input from the study Erasmus+: decentralised implementation - first experiences, commissioned by the Policy Department B of the European Parliament and produced by the Academic Cooperation Association (ACA)(2). This in-depth analysis is based on research carried out between April and June 2016. It comprises a questionnaire-based online survey addressing all Erasmus+ national agencies (NAs) and interviews with representatives of 10 of the NAs aimed to identify first experiences in the decentralised actions of Erasmus+.

In addition, a European Implementation Assessment was carried out by the European Parliament Research Service (EPRS), providing an in-house analysis on key elements of the programme implementation including the sport sector(3). Two research papers were annexed to the assessment. The first research paper presents findings on the implementation of key action 1 (KA 1) - Learning mobility of individuals of education, training and youth. The second one addresses key action 2 (KA 2) - Cooperation for innovation and the exchange of good practices in the field of education, training and youth.

In order to gather additional information on the implementation of the programme, the rapporteur has also been in regular contact with a great number of stakeholders from all programme sectors. He had meetings with representatives of the Commission’s Directorate General on Education and Culture (DG EAC) and the Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency (EACEA).

On 23 September 2016 the rapporteur attended a stakeholder’s dialogue in Ljubljana organised by the European Parliament’s Information Office in Slovenia. At this meeting the rapporteur will discuss with Commissioner Navracsics and stakeholders from national, regional and local level the state of play in the implementation process and possible further improvements of the programme.

Finally, when preparing this report the rapporteur also looked into key Commission documents, most notably the annual work programmes for the implementation of Erasmus+ for the years 2014(4), 2015(5) and 2016(6), and the first evaluation by the Commission in its Erasmus+ Programme Annual Report 2014(7).

Despite all efforts with regard to the collection of information, the rapporteur is well aware of the fact that after less than three years of programme implementation a fully-fledged quantitative and qualitative assessment of Erasmus+ cannot be delivered. More information to be gathered in the remaining programme period is needed in order to evaluate the final impact of Erasmus+.

Therefore, with this implementation report the rapporteur intends to give an overview of the programme implementation over the first two and half years of its existence. It illustrates the opportunities and the main challenges and gives suggestions for improvement for the remaining four and half years. The conclusions and recommendations should feed into the programme’s mid-term evaluation report to be submitted by the European Commission at the end of 2017. The report also gives some ideas which could be relevant for the negotiations for the next programme period.

Origin and structure of the programme

Erasmus+, launched in 2014, is based on a long historical development of EU programmes in education and training and youth. After launching several different programmes in the 80s, the streamlining of the programmes in education and training started with the creation of Socrates (education) and Leonardo da Vinci (vocational education and training) in the 90s. The Lifelong Learning Programme (2007-2013) assembled the existing support programmes of the Socrates scheme and the Leonardo da Vinci programme under one roof. The creation of Erasmus+ brought about the biggest change with the integration of all programmes for education and training and youth under one umbrella (so-called integrated approach). The sport sector is for the first time added into the programme as new element of support.

Under the new integrated approach Erasmus+ is organised under three key actions (KAs): (1) Learning mobility for individuals, (2) Cooperation for innovation and the exchange of good practices and (3) Support for policy reform. The two chapters education and training, and youth both set out clear specific objectives and relevant activities of the key actions. The sport sector is dealt with in a third chapter and not organised under key actions.

Main conclusions and recommendations

Many of the EU citizens value Erasmus+ as the major tool to support activities in the fields of education and training, youth and sport and consider it as a success story of European integration. The overall conclusion is that the programme offers a variety of new opportunities for potential participants. The objectives of the programme are considered to be very much related to today’s policies in the relevant fields.

With regard to the visibility of the programme the conclusion is two-fold. On the one hand the integration of the different programmes within one single programme has increased the visibility of the EU’s support which also resulted in greater public and political attention. On the other hand several stakeholders criticise that due to the overall programme’s complexity the different sectors now lack visibility.

The objective of simplification has been reached to a great extend with the introduction of several new measures such as the provision of digital solutions for the application process and the project management. Many stakeholders also appreciate the introduction of the unit cost system which brings about simplification in the financial management of the programme.

Still, without doubt the first two and a half years of implementation have been difficult and challenging. In the meantime, the Commission has improved implementation measures and is back on track. But still a lot has to be done to make the programme a success story in reality. For instance, the rapporteur has noticed that the level of satisfaction differs in the different programme sectors and within the different key actions.

The rapporteur considers it important to highlight in particular the following central conclusions and recommendations:

Cross-sectoral cooperation

The streamlined architecture of the programme was introduced to “create synergies and foster cross-sectoral cooperation across the various education, training and youth sectors”(8). According to 2/3 of the national agencies the increased potential for cross-sectoral cooperation is one of the biggest positive elements of Erasmus+. However, the cross-sectoral cooperation does not happen in reality. The rapporteur therefore asks the Commission to fully exploit the potential to foster and encourage cross-sectoral cooperation. Furthermore, the meaning of the term “cross-sectoral cooperation” does not seem to be clear. For instance, it is used for the cooperation between applicants and beneficiaries from various sectors, for the collaboration between the sectors managed by one national agency or even for the collaboration between national agencies with different portfolios. That is why the rapporteur suggests a clear definition of cross-sectoral projects for the next programme period.

Budget

Compared to the previous programme generation, the total budget of the programme has been significantly increased. The allocation of a budget increase of 40% for the programme shows the high political and economic value of Erasmus+. Nevertheless, the increase will only take effect from 2017 onwards. As a consequence of the limited budget increase for the years 2014 – 2016 parts of the programme only have a very low success rate. Even worse, a high number of good quality projects had to be rejected and expectations of many applicants have not been fulfilled. However, the rapporteur believes that the annual budget increase in the remaining four years of the programme will result in continuously higher success rates and greater satisfaction among the applicants. He welcomes the intention of the Commission to allocate additional 200 Mio. Euro to the programme for the remaining programme period as announced in the Commission communication on the midterm review/revision of the MFF 2014–2020(9).

Looking ahead, for a continued success of the programme it is inevitable to further increase the budget for the next programme period. Last but not least the current commitment rate of nearly 100% for all actions throughout the programme demonstrates an imbalance between supply and demand which must be tackled by a further budget increase in order to continue the programme’s success story.

Brand names

The long-standing brand names Comenius, Erasmus, Erasmus Mundus, Leonardo da Vinci, Grundtvig and Youth in Action have always been important for the promotion of the different sectors. The Parliament has always been supporting their use in order to allow the stakeholders and beneficiaries clear guidance in the programme. The brand names ensure better recognition and avoid confusion, especially for beneficiaries who participated in the predecessor programme. In order to maintain and strengthen the identity of the specific sectors, they need to be used more actively by all stakeholders.

Simplification and user-friendliness

The several measures introduced in order to simplify the implementation of the programme have not yet shown the envisaged practical consequences for the stakeholders. While simplification is a main feature of the programme, the Programme Guide is described by many stakeholders as too complex, too lengthy and not sector specific. Its lack of clarity and uneven level of detail do not make it user-friendly. While the increased digitalisation of the application procedure and management is very welcomed, the use of the new IT tools brought along several problems. According to the national agencies they were too unstable, too time-consuming and not user-friendly for both, the NAs and the beneficiaries. The rapporteur welcomes the IT action plan presented by the Commission which aims at overcoming these day-to-day difficulties. In his report, he calls for further improvement of the relevant IT tools and urges the Commission to focus on their improvement instead of developing new tools. According to the stakeholders, the introduction of the unit cost system ease the administrative burden of the financial project management. However, the calculation system seems to be unjust, especially for beneficiaries from remote areas. The Commission already reacted with adjustments of the system. But the level of support is seen to be unrealistic as it allegedly does not meet the real costs encountered. The rapporteur considers a further increase of the unit cost level necessary in order to provide sufficient financial support for the project participants.

Small-sized organisations

Many stakeholders report concerns that Erasmus+ turns into a programme for large institutions and large development projects. Small-sized organisations mainly want to conduct small cooperation projects. But administrative burden make that very difficult. The small-sized organisations do not have the necessary financial and organisational capacities to successfully compete with large organisations. The Commission reacted to that criticism by introducing changes in the annual work programme 2016. Namely, in key action 2 two types of Strategic Partnerships were put forward: Strategic Partnerships aiming at implementing innovative practices in the field of education, training and youth, and Strategic Partnerships with a view to establishing exchanges of practices. In the sport sector, the concept of Small Collaborative Partnerships has been developed. The rapporteur is confident that these changes are a first step to increase the chances for small-sized organisations for cooperation projects. But he calls on the Commission for further improvements to be made in order to integrate more small-sized organisations into programme activities.

Further harmonisation and further changes

Last but not least, the rapporteur would like to underline his opinion to refrain from further harmonisation in the next programme period. The programme’s achievements have to be safeguarded and consolidated. Further improvements have to be made where necessary while keeping the introduced structure of the programme. In this respect, the rapporteur calls on the Commission to keep the separate chapters for education and training, for youth and for sports with their separate budgets. Their specific characters have to be taken into account when setting their objectives and specific activities.

(1)

OJ L 347, 20.12.2013, p. 50.

(2)

http://www.europarl.europa.eu/RegData/etudes/STUD/2016/585877/IPOL_STU(2016)585877_EN.pdf.

(3)

The Erasmus+ Programme (Regulation EU No. 1288/2013): European Implementation Assessment, http://www.europarl.europa.eu/RegData/etudes/STUD/2016/581414/EPRS_STU(2016)581414_EN.pdf.

(4)

2014 annual work programme for the implementation of the ‘Erasmus+’ Programme - International dimension of Higher Education, C(2014) 5455 of 5 August 2014, http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/education_culture/more_info/awp/docs/c-2014-5455_en.pdf.

(5)

2015 annual work programme for the implementation of the ‘Erasmus+’ Programme: the Union Programme for Education, Training, Youth and Sport, C(2014)6856 of 30 August 2014, http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/education_culture/more_info/awp/docs/c_2014_6856_en.pdf.

(6)

2016 annual work programme for the implementation of the ‘Erasmus+’ Programme - International dimension of Higher Education, C(2015) 6151 of 14 September 2015, http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/education_culture/more_info/awp/docs/c-2015-6151.pdf.

(7)

http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/education_culture/repository/education/library/statistics/erasmus-plus-annual-report_en.pdf.

(8)

Recital 10 of Regulation 1288/2013.

(9)

Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council “Mid-term review/revision of the multiannual financial framework 2014-2020 – An EU budget focused on results”, COM(2016)0603 of 14.9.2016.


MOTION FOR A EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT RESOLUTION

on the implementation of Regulation (EU) No 1288/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 December 2013 establishing ‘Erasmus+’: the Union programme for education, training, youth and sport and repealing Decisions No 1719/2006/EC, No 1720/2006/EC and No 1298/2008/EC

(2015/2327(INI))

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to Articles 165 and 166 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

–  having regard to the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, in particular Article 14 thereof,

–  having regard to Regulation (EU) No 1288/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 December 2013 establishing ‘Erasmus+’: the Union programme for education, training, youth and sport and repealing Decisions No 1719/2006/EC, No 1720/2006/EC and No 1298/2008/EC(1),

  having regard to Recommendation 2006/962/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 18 December 2006 on key competences for lifelong learning(2),

–  having regard to the Council Resolution of 27 November 2009 on a renewed framework for European cooperation in the youth field (2010-2018)(3),

–  having regard to its resolution of 6 July 2010 on promoting youth access to the labour market, strengthening trainee, internship and apprenticeship status(4),

–  having regard to the Council conclusions of 19 November 2010 on education for sustainable development,

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 18 January 2011 entitled ‘Developing the European Dimension in Sport’ (COM(2011)0012),

  having regard to its resolution of 12 May 2011 on ‘Youth on the move: a framework for improving Europe’s education and training systems(5),

  having regard to the Commission communication of 20 September 2011 entitled ‘Supporting growth and jobs – an agenda for the modernisation of Europe’s higher education systems’ (COM(2011)0567),

–  having regard to the Council Resolution of 28 November 2011 on a ‘Renewed European agenda on adult learning’ (2011/C 372/01)(6),

–  having regard to the Council conclusions of 28 and 29 November 2011 on a benchmark for learning mobility(7),

  having regard to the Council Recommendation of 20 December 2012 on the validation of non-formal and informal learning(8),

–  having regard to the 2012 Joint Report of the Council and the Commission on the implementation of the Strategic Framework for European cooperation in education and training (ET 2020), ‘Education and Training in a smart, sustainable and inclusive Europe’(9),

–  having regard to its resolution of 22 October 2013 on ‘Rethinking Education’(10),

–  having regard to the Council conclusions of 20 May 2014 on effective teacher education,

–  having regard to the Council conclusions of 20 May 2014 on quality assurance supporting education and training,

–  having regard to the Declaration on promoting citizenship and the common values of freedom, tolerance and non-discrimination through education (‘Paris Declaration’), adopted at the informal meeting of European Union Education Ministers on 17 March 2015 in Paris,

–  having regard to its resolution of 8 September 2015 on promoting youth entrepreneurship through education and training(11),

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 15 September 2015 entitled ‘Draft 2015 Joint Report of the Council and the Commission on the implementation of the renewed framework for European cooperation in the youth field (2010-2018)’ (COM(2015)0429),

–  having regard to the 2015 Joint Report of the Council and the Commission on the implementation of the Strategic Framework for European cooperation in education and training (ET 2020), ‘New priorities for European cooperation in education and training’ (COM(2015)0408),

–  having regard to the Council conclusions on the role of early childhood education and primary education in fostering creativity, innovation and digital competence(12),

–  having regard to the Council conclusions on reducing early school leaving and promoting success in school(13),

–  having regard to its resolution of 12 April 2016 on Learning EU at school(14),

–  having regard to its resolution of 12 April 2016 on Erasmus+ and other tools to foster mobility in vocational education and training(15),

–  having regard to the Council conclusions of 30 May 2016 on developing media literacy and critical thinking through education and training,

–  having regard to the Council conclusions of 30 May 2016 on the role of the youth sector in an integrated and cross-sectoral approach to preventing and combating violent radicalisation of young people,

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 10 June 2016 entitled ‘A new skills agenda for Europe’ (COM(2016)0381),

–  having regard to its resolution of 23 June 2016 on follow-up of the Strategic Framework for European cooperation in education and training (ET 2020)(16),

–  having regard to Rule 52 of its Rules of Procedure, as well as Article 1(1)(e) of, and Annex 3 to, Annex XVII to the Rules,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Culture and Education and the opinions of the Committee on Budgets and the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs (A8-0389/2016),

A.  whereas Erasmus+ is one of the most successful Union programmes and the major tool to support activities in the fields of education, training, youth and sport, and is designed to improve the career potential of young people and to offer social links to participants; giving over the period 2014-2020 the opportunity to study, train and volunteer in another country to more than four million Europeans;

B.  whereas the Commission has shown flexibility and taken innovative steps to target new challenges, such as a proposal for refugees, and to foster civic values within the incentives Erasmus+ offers, towards a more active and participative intercultural dialogue;

C.  whereas the programme's high educational, societal, political and economic relevance is reflected in the budget increase of 40 % for the programme period, and in the commitment rate of the budget provided for, which has reached nearly 100 % because of a high number of applications;

D.  whereas not all relevant data for a full quantitative and qualitative analysis of the implementation are yet available, whereas it is therefore too early to conduct a qualitative assessment of the programme’s impact;

E.  whereas the results of the Erasmus Impact Study of 2014(17) show that those who have studied or trained abroad are twice as likely to find work compared to others who lack similar experience, that 85 % of Erasmus students study or train abroad in order to enhance their employability abroad, that the unemployment rate for those who have studied or trained abroad is 23 % lower five years after graduating; whereas the Erasmus Impact Study also shows that 64 % of employers think international experience is important for recruitment (as compared to only 37 % in 2006) and that graduates with an international background are given greater professional responsibility; whereas one in three Erasmus trainees is offered a job at the enterprise where they did their traineeship and almost one in 10 Erasmus trainees who did work placements have started their own company and three out of four plan to or can envisage doing the same;

Main conclusions

1.  Points out that Erasmus+ is the EU’s flagship mobility, education and training programme, which has been allocated a 40 % budget increase as compared to the 2007-2013 period, given the positive results and high demand;

2.  Notes that a large majority of national agencies expect the Erasmus+ programme’s objectives in the fields of education, training and youth to be reached;

3.  Considers that the Erasmus+ programme plays a vital role in fostering European identity and integration, solidarity, inclusive and sustainable growth, quality employment, competitiveness, social cohesion and youth labour mobility by making a positive contribution to the improvement of European education and training systems, lifelong learning, active European citizenship, and better prospects for employment, by providing Europeans with an opportunity to acquire transversal and transferable sets of personal and professional skills and competences via studies, training, work experience abroad, and volunteering, as well as by offering individuals the chance to live more independently, adapt more easily and achieve personal development;

4.   Emphasises that although the overall programme is more visible than its predecessor the different sectorial programmes still lack visibility; recalls in this context that the specific features and characteristics of the different sectors must be taken into account during the implementation of the programme;

5.  Emphasises that sector-specific formats such as Grundtvig Workshops and national youth initiatives open to informal groups should be reintroduced, and transnational youth initiatives should be more easily accessible; proposes that the impact of the programme be maximised with new eligible actions, for example by introducing large-scale youth exchanges based on the structure of the large-scale European Voluntary Service (EVS) in the framework of Key Action 1 (KA1);

6.  Stresses that the youth chapter of the programme is the one most affected by European citizens’ increasing interest in Erasmus+; notes that, at present, 36 % of all Erasmus+ submissions are in the field of youth, with a 60 % increase in submissions between 2014 and 2016;

7.  Acknowledges the importance of the EU Structured Dialogue on youth, a participatory process that gives young people and youth organisations the opportunity to be involved in and influence EU youth policy making, and welcomes the support the programme is providing to the process through the support to National Working Groups and the KA3 Structured Dialogue projects; notes that the European Voluntary Service is an intensive learning and experience format for young people and requires a high-quality framework; emphasises that access to the Erasmus+ programme should continue to be reserved primarily for civil society;

8.   Recognises that, according to reports from stakeholders at all levels, while the first two and a half years of programme implementation were difficult and challenging, improvements have been made in the meantime, although simplifications introduced through the one-size-fits-all approach have in many cases had an adverse effect; considers that having fewer bureaucratic obstacles would lead to a wider and more accessible programme; therefore calls for further efforts to be made to reduce bureaucracy across the project cycle and to set the costs appropriately and in relation to the budget or type of project; at the same time, encourages the Commission to strengthen dialogue with social partners, local authorities and civil society so as to ensure the widest possible access to the programme; regrets that, owing to the high administrative burden, Erasmus+ funding can be unattainable for smaller organisations; believes that bureaucracy and reporting requirements should be simplified;

9.  Is sorry to see that the Commission does not provide any data on the quality of the successful projects; emphasises that analysing the quality of each project and the transparent exposure of the results are an obvious step that the Commission should take, which may contribute to a higher success rate in the applications;

10.  Stresses that the goal of simpler, more user-friendly and more flexible implementation has not yet been reached; deplores in this context the continuing lack of clarity and uneven level of detail in the programme guide, as well as the over-complicated application forms which put smaller, inexperienced and non-professional applicants at a considerable disadvantage; underlines the necessity of pursuing improvements in the programme, making it more user-friendly while taking into consideration the importance of differentiating among various sectors and groups of beneficiaries; regrets that the lengthy payment periods in Erasmus+ affect the possibilities of smaller organisations to apply for funding;

11.  Calls on the Commission to significantly simplify the application procedure, and to transform the programme guide and make it more user-oriented and sector-specific by merging all the relevant information for each programme sector into one chapter, and to publish the application forms in all the official languages at the same time as the programme guide and well ahead of the application deadline, as well as providing a clear indication of the documents needed at each stage; calls for clarification and simplification of the financial section of the e-form; emphasises that a coordinated and consistent assessment, supported by independent experts, is necessary for the evaluation of applications;

12.  Highlights the importance of clear learning outcomes and specific job descriptions for Erasmus+ work experiences abroad for vocational education and training students, trainees, and apprentices, and volunteers; stresses that the preparation of the candidates before their international experience is an integral part of the activity and needs to include career guidance sessions and language courses, as well as social and cultural integration training courses, including cross-cultural communication that would foster people’s participation in society and improve their working and living conditions; taking into account the importance of multilingualism in improving the employability of young people, considers that more efforts should be made to promote and support multilingualism in the Erasmus+ programme; welcomes the fact that the foreign language skills of participants in Erasmus+ projects will be enhanced, including neighbouring languages that can increase mobility and employability in the cross-border labour market; considers that the language courses for incoming mobility participants could be delivered in cooperation with the educational institutions and the host companies, and adapted to their field of study or traineeship;

13.  Recalls that despite the programme’s significant overall budget increase, only a limited increase for the first half of the programme period has been provided for in the MFF, which has led, unfortunately, to the rejection of many high-quality projects and hence a low success rate and high dissatisfaction among applicants;

14.  Welcomes the increase in funds available for the Erasmus+ programme for the year 2017 by almost EUR 300 million compared to 2016; further underlines the necessity to use these funds partly for improving the weak parts of the programme and mostly for increasing the number of successful quality projects;

15.  Recognises that investment from the EU budget under Erasmus+ contributes significantly to skills improvement, employability and a lower risk of long-term unemployment for young Europeans, as well as to active citizenship and social inclusion of young people;

16.  Believes that the 12.7 % increase in the total budget in 2017 compared to 2016 and further annual increases in the remaining programme years will result in higher success rates and greater satisfaction among applicants; expects the implementation of the Commission’s intention to allocate an additional EUR 200 million for the remaining programme period, though an even bigger budgetary effort is needed to cover the demand in underfunded sectors, which is actually much higher than the funds available; notes that 48 % of national agencies (NAs) report that programme actions are under-budgeted;

17.  Encourages the Commission to analyse the programme key actions and sectors that seem to be underfunded, such as KA2 Strategic Partnerships, adult education, youth, school education, vocational education and training (VET) and higher education, and those that could benefit most from the budgetary increase; underlines the need to maintain continuous monitoring of the programme with a view to identifying those areas and sectors, in order to adopt corrective measures as soon as possible; emphasises the need to secure sufficient funding for mobility, paying specific attention to increasing the mobility of underrepresented groups; emphasises that, owing to sector-specific needs, special budget lines for different sectors are necessary; points out that the budget is to be used exclusively as part of the programme provisions;

18.  Stresses that virtual means are one way to support the dissemination and exploitation of results, but that personal contacts and face-to-face activities play a very important role in the success of a project and of the overall programme; in this regard believes that awareness campaigns in the Member States should include seminars and activities that meet the potential participants in person;

19.  Stresses also that a strong component for all participants in Erasmus+ is the development of their language skills; welcomes, therefore, the on-line language tools that are offered by the Commission, but points out that an accompanying (national, regional, local) framework must be put in place to make mobility a success, in particular for school-aged pupils and VET students, as well as staff, to help with their integration into the different environments;

20.  Points out that, at present, only 1 % of young people in work-related training schemes, including apprentices, are involved in mobility schemes during their training; points out that it is essential to create the conditions for greater apprentice mobility within the EU, so as to give apprentices the same opportunities as higher education students and thus meet the objectives of the fight against unemployment, particularly youth unemployment;

21.  Stresses the importance of informal and non-formal education, youth workers, participation in sport and volunteering in the Erasmus+ Programme as ways to stimulate the development of civic, social and intercultural competences, to foster social inclusion and active citizenship of young people and to contribute to the development of their human and social capital;

22.  Stresses that previously, Erasmus and Leonardo were mainly geared towards young people with higher skills levels and with better labour market access options and fell short in targeting the most vulnerable; points to the EU target to decrease early school leaving and poverty; stresses that early school leavers, a high-risk group for poverty and unemployment, should be strongly targeted by Member States in implementing Erasmus+; stresses that programmes for early school leavers cannot be the standard mainstream VET or exchange programmes but should focus on their specific needs, on easy access and uncomplicated funding hand-in-hand with informal or non-formal learning environments;

23.  Notes the new societal challenges and the job content that is under constant evolution; recalls that the Erasmus+ programme also prepares young people for employment and considers that a special focus should be laid on a shift from on-the-job-competences to soft skills, promoting the acquisition of transversal and transferable sets of skills and competences such as entrepreneurship, ICT literacy, creative thinking, problem-solving and an innovative mind-set, self-confidence, adaptability, team-building, project management, risk assessment and risk-taking, as well as social and civic competences that are highly relevant for the labour market; considers that this should also include well-being at work, a good work-life balance, and the integration of people in vulnerable situations into the labour market and society;

24.  Notes that the Student Loan Guarantee Facility was only launched in February 2015 after signature of the delegation agreement with the European Investment Fund (EIF) in December 2014, and that to date there are only four banks in France, Spain and Ireland participating in this innovative tool; regrets that this financial tool is far from reaching the expected results, as to date only 130 Master’s students are participating; calls for a critical assessment of the Loan Guarantee Facility, examining its purpose and accessibility throughout Europe, and urges the Commission, in consultation with Parliament, to propose a strategy to re-allocate part of the budget that probably will not be used by 2020; underlines that the overall rate of indebted students should be monitored in order to guarantee that the comprehensive financial instruments used by the programme translate into more individuals helped;

25.  Regrets that organisations representing amateur sportspeople, and disabled sportspeople in particular, at local level are highly underrepresented as project participants in the implementation of grassroots sports projects; welcomes the introduction of Small Collaborative Partnerships with reduced administrative requirements as an important step in enabling smaller grassroots sports organisations to take part in the programme and enriching them further; underlines that intersectoral action, in this case linking more closely sport and education, can contribute to tackling this shortcoming; notes that the practice should be extended to other sectors of the Erasmus+ project funding, especially for volunteer organisations;

26.   Welcomes the particular involvement of the Erasmus+ programme in cooperation and activities in grassroots sport; encourages the Commission to improve accessibility and participation in the programme by grassroots actors such as sports clubs; calls on the Commission to assess whether the existing funding available for sport under Erasmus+ is being used effectively and for the benefit of grassroots sport and, if not, to identify options for improvement with a focus on grassroots sport and education to enhance visibility, to promote physical activity and to make sport more accessible to all citizens in the EU; invites the Commission to enhance a cross-sectoral approach on grassroots sport across all relevant actions of Erasmus+ and to coordinate actions in this field in order to ensure their effectiveness and desired impact;

27.  Emphasises the added value of Erasmus+ VET actions in supporting the integration or reintegration of disadvantaged groups into educational/vocational training opportunities in order to enhance their transition to the labour market;

28.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States, including EU agencies such as Cedefop, to improve the quality, accessibility and equality of access to VET mobility programmes so that they deliver added value for all participants as regards qualification, recognition and content, and to ensure that quality standards are introduced for apprenticeship programmes;

29.  Acknowledges that, with regard to the high youth unemployment rates in certain Member States, a primary objective of Erasmus+ is to prepare young people for employment; places particular emphasis, at the same time, on the need to preserve the status of activities outside of school, vocational training and study within the Erasmus+ programme;

30.  Reminds the Commission that people with disabilities such as the hearing impaired have special needs and therefore need adequate funding and appropriate support, such as sign language interpreters, and access to greater information and a reasonable grant so they are able to access the Erasmus+ programme; calls on the Commission to continue its work on introducing further measures to grant people with disabilities barrier-free and non-discriminatory access to all scholarship programmes in the framework of Erasmus+; considers it worthwhile, if deemed necessary, to appoint so-called coaches within national agencies aimed at advising on the best possible allocation of funding;

31.  Stresses the requirement to support, either financially or by means of tax incentives, SMEs that offer vocational training under the Erasmus+ programme;

Recommendations

32.   Considers that Erasmus+ is one of the key pillars for adapting the European population to lifelong learning; asks the Commission, therefore, to fully exploit the lifelong-learning dimension of the programme by fostering and encouraging cross-sectoral cooperation under Erasmus+, which is much higher than under the predecessor programmes, and to evaluate cross-sectoral cooperation in the programme’s midterm evaluation presented at the end of 2017; recognises that cross-sectoral projects and activities show the potential to enhance the programme's performance; calls for educational mobility to become part of any higher or vocational education programmes in order to improve the quality of higher education and the VET system, to help individuals upgrade their professional skills, competences and career development, as well as to strengthen awareness of competences gained during mobility in all targeted sectors and to foster knowledge about learning, training and youth work; emphasises the added value of Erasmus+ VET actions in supporting the integration or reintegration of disadvantaged groups into educational/vocational training opportunities in order to enhance their transition to the labour market; calls for better opportunities for VET students to pursue an internship or part of their studies in neighbouring countries, for example by financing the travel expenses of students who continue to live in their own country;

33.  Points to Erasmus+ as an important instrument for improving the quality of VET across the EU; highlights the fact that inclusive quality VET and VET mobility play a vital economic and social role in Europe, in a rapidly changing labour market, as a means of providing young people and adults with the professional and life skills needed for a transition from education and training to work; stresses that VET and VET mobility should foster equal opportunities, non-discrimination and social inclusion for all citizens, including women who are under-represented in VET and people in vulnerable situations including Roma, unemployed young people, people with disabilities, inhabitants of remote areas, inhabitants of outermost regions, and migrants; suggests also focusing on low-qualified beneficiaries in order to increase their participation and thereby improve the outreach of the programmes;

34.   Points out the continued social selectivity in enrolment to mobility in some Member States; regrets that inequalities within and between Member States are making access to the programme difficult because they create barriers for applicants, especially for students with a lower income; indicates the high percentage of students in mobility supported by third parties (family, parents, partners, local actors close to beneficiaries); notes that many working students resign from their participation in the mobility owing to the potential loss of income; notes that the removal of barriers to mobility, such as financial obstacles, and better recognition of international work/study outcomes are important tools for meeting the KA1 objectives; encourages the Commission and the Member States to further increase financial aid for those who are unable to participate because of financial constraints, and looks for further possibilities to facilitate their mobility in order to make the Erasmus+ truly accessible to all; calls on the Commission and the Member States to ensure gender equality and equal access to the programme;

35.  Calls on the Commission to guarantee Europe-wide mobility even in times of crisis and to maintain options which make it possible for countries participating in the European Higher Education Area to access the Erasmus+ programme.

36.  Continues to express concern that Erasmus+ is viewed by young people and the wider public primarily as a programme for higher education; recommends, therefore, that greater importance be attached to raising the profile at the European, national and regional level of the different sectors that people can apply for, including school-level education, higher education, international higher education, vocational education and training, adult education, youth and sport, and volunteering as well as highlighting the possibility of having cross-cutting projects, notably by means of an information campaign and public relations work regarding the content of all programmes;

37.   Considers the long-standing brand names (Comenius, Erasmus, Erasmus Mundus, Leonardo da Vinci, Grundtvig and Youth in Action) and their logos to be important tools in promoting the variety of the programme; notes as well that the name of "Erasmus+" is becoming the best known, especially for newcomers; emphasises that the programme should defend its new name ‘Erasmus+’ and should further use different methods to promote awareness; suggests that the Commission should further highlight the relationship of the Erasmus+ programme with the brand names and its wide variety of sub-programmes; calls for the name "Erasmus+" to be added to the individual programmes (so they will be "Erasmus+ Comenius", "Erasmus+ Mundus", "Erasmus+ Leonardo da Vinci", "Erasmus+ Grundtvig" and "Erasmus+ Youth In Action"); calls on all stakeholders to continue to use them, especially in publications and brochures, in order to maintain and strengthen the identity of the sectoral programmes, to ensure better recognition and to overcome any confusion among beneficiaries; calls on the Commission to structure the Erasmus+ guide with the aid of the long-standing brand names and to use those labels rigorously in the guide.

38.  Encourages the Commission to strengthen its efforts towards an open, consultative and transparent way of working and to further improve its cooperation with the social partners and civil society (including, where appropriate, associations of parents, students, teachers and non-teaching staff, and youth organisations) at all levels of implementation; stresses that the Erasmus+ programme should become a transparency flagship for the European Union, recognised as such by its citizens, evolving towards a situation where 100 % of its decisions and processes become fully transparent, especially regarding their financial dimensions; recalls that fully transparent decisions provide a clearer understanding for those projects and individuals whose applications have not been successful;

39.  Stresses the important role of the Programme Committee, as laid down in Regulation No 1288/2013 establishing Erasmus+, as a key actor in the implementation of the programme and in furthering the European added value through an enhanced complementarity and synergy between Erasmus+ and policies at national level; calls for a stronger role for the Programme Committee and its role in policy decisions; invites the Commission to continue sharing detailed information about the distribution of centralised funds to the Programme Committee;

40.  Underlines that IT tools should not be understood only as a vector for management, application and administrative processes, but that they can also provide valuable ways of keeping in touch with beneficiaries, and of facilitating peer-to-peer contact among them, potentially providing support for many other processes, e.g. feedback from beneficiaries, reciprocal mentoring and enhancing the visibility of the programme;

41.  Calls on the Commission to ensure a regular exchange of information and good cooperation between national authorities, the implementation bodies and civil society organisations at European level and national agencies on both decentralised and centralised programme actions; calls on the NAs to provide all the necessary information on their homepages in the same format and with the same content where possible;

42.  Invites the Commission and, respectively, the Directorate-General for Education and Culture (DG EAC) and the Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency (EACEA) to enable further promotion of decentralised actions such as Key Action 2 by proposing adequate funding that is proportional to the size of the actions;

43.  Encourages further fostering of cooperation between the NAs and the Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency (EACEA) in order to promote centralised actions of the Erasmus+ programme, to provide the necessary support, to increase awareness of the programme, to provide additional information about the programme among potential applicants, and to exchange feedback on improving their implementation process; calls on the Commission to develop, in collaboration with the national agencies, European implementation guidelines for the national agencies; asks for a facilitation of the contacts among the Commission, NAs, programme beneficiaries, representatives of civil society organisations and the EACEA by the development of a communication platform for exchanging information and good practices, where all stakeholders can receive quality information, as well as sharing their experiences and suggestions for further programme improvements; stresses the need to involve stakeholders and beneficiaries in the Programme Committee meetings; highlights that, in line with Regulation (EU) No 1288/2013, this could be facilitated by the establishment of standing sub-committees involving representatives of stakeholders and beneficiaries, sectorial national agencies, Members of the European Parliament and representatives from the Member States;

44.  Calls on the Commission to review the payment modalities to national agencies, the deadlines for applications and the appropriation periods, and to adjust them accordingly; points out that greater flexibility in mobility grants and administrative costs in favour of longer stays abroad should be made possible for the national agencies; encourages the Commission to give more flexibility to NAs to move funds within KAs in order to overcome the potential funding gaps based on beneficiaries’ needs; suggest entrusting NAs with this process, given their familiarity with the potential funding gaps in their respective country; notes that increased flexibility brings the need for corresponding monitoring and transparency;

45.  Is concerned over the decreasing number of pool projects under Leonardo and calls for the national agencies to have more decision-making scope on the amount of administrative expenditure subsidies, so that they can take national particularities such as the dual system into account more effectively;

46.  Is concerned about NAs’ difficulties in interpretation and application of programme rules and recalls that 82 % of the Erasmus+ budget is managed under decentralised actions; calls on the Commission to streamline definitions and improve guidance on decentralised actions and to ensure the consistent application of programme rules and regulations across the National Agencies, observing common quality standards, project evaluation, and administrative procedures, thus guaranteeing the uniform and coherent implementation of Erasmus+ programme, best results for the EU budget and the avoidance of error rates;

47.  Believes that NA performance should be regularly assessed and improved in order to safeguard the performance of EU-funded actions; acknowledges that participation rates and participants’ and partners’ experience should be key in this respect;

48.  Suggests that the organisational structure of the relevant Commission services be aligned with the structure of the programme;

49.  Calls for further improvement of the relevant IT tools and for the focus to be put on streamlining, user-friendliness and improving connections between the different tools rather than developing new ones; recalls, in this context, that new IT tools are among the favourite means of interaction with the web used by young citizens; underlines that IT technologies can play an important role in reinforcing the visibility of the programme;

50.  Calls on the Commission to develop further the eTwinning, School Education Gateway, Open Education Europe, EPALE, European Youth Portal and VALOR IT platforms in order to make them more attractive and user-friendly; asks the Commission to include an evaluation of these platforms in the Erasmus+ mid-term evaluation, to be presented at the end of 2017;

51.  Calls on the Commission to optimise the performance and user-friendliness of IT tools, such as the Mobility Tool, or other IT support platforms such as the Electronic Platform for Adult Learning in Europe (EPALE), in order to ensure that the programme beneficiaries make the most of their experiences, as well as promoting cross-border collaboration and the sharing of best practices;

52.  Calls on the Commission to strengthen the school education dimension of the programme, allowing for more mobility of pupils, simplification of funding and administrative procedures for schools and for non-formal education providers, thereby taking advantage of the general intention of Erasmus+ to foster cross-sectoral cooperation, and with a view to encouraging non-formal education providers to become involved with partnerships with schools; encourages the Commission to strengthen youth work and non-formal education development practices within the programme by supporting youth organisations and other youth work providers, as well as by continuing support to the EU-Council of Europe youth partnership;

53.   Welcomes the introduction of two types of strategic partnership as a first and important positive step towards increasing the chances for small organisations to participate in the programme, as they often experience difficulties with meeting the requirements and are thus discriminated against, which detracts from the programme’s reputation and persuasiveness; calls on the Commission to carry out improvements that will make the programme even more appealing in order to ensure that more small organisations are included in programme activities with the final goal of increasing their share in the programme, bearing in mind quality requirements; welcomes the establishment of European implementation guidelines and a more detailed FAQ site to streamline answers about selection criteria and to showcase selected projects in order to clarify selection and better support small organisations; emphasises the need to involve diverse participating organisations in the programme’s activities and to keep a balance among them;

54.  Recommends that subsidy amounts in the school cooperation sector be reduced to the benefit of the number of subsidised projects, in order to subsidise school exchanges directly and thus make more personal encounters between people of different cultures and languages possible; underlines the significance of personal experiences with people of different cultural backgrounds with regard to the promotion of a European identity and the basic idea of European integration, and recommends attempts be made to let the greatest possible number of people participate, which should certainly be the case for all programme aims; welcomes in that connection the improvements which have already taken place but expects the rules to be made more flexible as part of the strategic partnerships by the national agencies and the Commission;

55.  Taking into account the importance of multilingualism in raising the employability of young people(18), considers that more efforts should be made to promote and support multilingualism in the Erasmus+ programme;

56.  Notes, in the context of new societal challenges for Europe, the need to strengthen a European approach to facing common European challenges by supporting large-scale innovation projects in the field of education, training and youth carried out by European Civil Society networks; points out that this could be done by allocating part of the overall Erasmus+ funding of KA2 to ‘Cooperation for innovation and the exchange of good practices’ of centralised actions;

57.  Notes that 75 % of NAs reported a high administrative burden, which decreases EU budget investment capacity and threatens to have a direct impact on beneficiaries; calls on DG EAC and the EACEA to improve implementation, especially in the application process;

58.  Welcomes the introduction of the unit cost system into the programme in order to minimise the administrative burden; welcomes also the adjustments made in 2016 and planned for 2017 by the Commission; notes that, owing to regulatory requirements, some Member States cannot apply this system or find cost levels inadequate as compared with actual costs; considers the further increase in unit cost rates to be necessary to provide sufficient financial support for project participants, and emphasises the need to guarantee that participants and organisations from remote areas and border regions are not disadvantaged by the unit cost system; calls for the high personal engagement, particularly of the many volunteers and teachers, and of all other applicants, to be rewarded appropriately; calls for the (re)introduction of project initiation financing for making contact with potential cooperation partners or preparatory meetings, or a sufficient total allowance to cover those costs, for example; underlines that transparency in this area is an essential component of the transparency requirements and targets for the overall Erasmus+ programme;

59.  Welcomes the simplification introduced by the use of lump-sum and flat-rate funding; encourages the Commission to look for ways to further improve the complicated administrative procedure for the applicants in different sectors of the programme; is concerned that NAs are reporting a higher audit burden;

60.  Notes the need to strengthen the operational support to European networks under KA3 ‘Support for policy reform’ in order to maximise the promotion and dissemination of the opportunities offered by Erasmus+;

61.  Calls on the Commission to take relevant steps to make volunteering eligible as a source of own contributions to the project budget, as this facilitates the participation of smaller organisations, especially in sport, bearing in mind that Erasmus+ enables the recognition of volunteer time as co-financing in the form of contributions in kind, and that the new Commission proposal for financial guidelines includes this as a possibility; stresses that volunteer contribution must be recognised and granted visibility, given its special significance for the programme, provided that it is monitored in order to ensure that volunteering complements, but does not replace, the investment of public resources;

62.  Recognises the economic and social value of volunteering and encourages the Commission to better support volunteer-based organisations across the programme actions;

63.   Welcomes the Commission´s proposal to set up a European Solidarity Corps; encourages the Commission to involve volunteer organisations in the development of this new initiative in order to ensure its added and complementary value in strengthening volunteering in the European Union; encourages the Commission and the Member States to make a budgetary effort to accommodate this new initiative without underfunding other current and priority programmes and calls for possibilities to be explored of integrating it into the EVS in order to strengthen volunteering in the EU without duplicating initiatives and programmes;

64.  Highlights that volunteering is an expression of solidarity, freedom and responsibility that contributes to the strengthening of active citizenship and to personal human development; considers that volunteering is also an essential tool for social inclusion and cohesion, as well as training, education and intercultural dialogue, while making an important contribution to the dissemination of European values; believes that the European Voluntary Service (EVS) should be recognised for its role in fostering the development of skills and competences that can facilitate the access of the EVS participants to the labour market; calls on the Commission and the Member States to ensure decent working conditions for the volunteers and monitor whether the contracts under which volunteers work are fully respected; calls on the Commission and the Member States to ensure that participants in the European Voluntary Service are never considered or used as a labour replacement;

65.  Calls for the decision-making period to be kept as short as possible, for the evaluation of applications to be done in a coherent and coordinated way and for a transparent and understandable justification to be provided for rejected applications, so that there is not a drastic loss of incentive among users of EU programmes;

66.  Strongly encourages more transparency in the evaluation of applications and the quality feedback to all applicants; calls on the Commission to ensure an effective feedback system in order for the programme beneficiaries to report back to the Commission on any irregularities that they might identify with respect to the implementation of the Erasmus+ programme; further calls on the Commission to improve and increase the flow of information between the European institutions responsible for implementing the programme and the national bodies; encourages national agencies and the Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency, with a view to improving the implementation of the programme, to provide training opportunities for evaluators, and to organise regular meetings with beneficiaries and visits to projects;

67.  Notes the importance of strengthening the local dimension of the EVS; suggests providing the EVS volunteers with stronger support not only before departure, but also upon their return to their local communities in the forms of post-orientated and post-integrated training, in order to help them share their European expertise by promoting volunteering at the local level;

68.  Supports increased effectiveness and efficiency through larger-scale projects; notes, however, that there has to be a balance between small and large groups of applicants;

69.  Asks the Commission to harmonise the indicated pre-financing rates as much as possible throughout the programme in order to give all beneficiaries the same advantages and to facilitate project implementation, especially for small-sized organisations; calls on the Commission and the Member States to ensure that large institutions are not favoured over their smaller, less well-established counterparts in terms of programme applicants;

70.  Notes regional imbalances at EU level and among areas within Member States in participation in Erasmus+-funded actions; is concerned that the success rates of its actions are relatively low, and divergent across the EU; calls for targeted and timely action to widen participation and improve success rates regardless of the origin of applicants, which seeks to earmark some of the funding for specific measures to promote and raise awareness of this initiative, particularly in those regions where access to funding has remained relatively low;

71.  Notes that Erasmus+ implementation in the EU’s regions reveals different funding demands and intervention priorities which require some Member States to refocus the programme intervention to ensure cost-effectiveness of the money spent;

72.  Notes unjustified grant discrepancies between countries and their methods of allocation; encourages the Commission to investigate the consequences of such differences in an effort to minimise socio-economic disparities in the European Union; encourages a further increase of grant rates, as well as their adjustment to the cost of living in the host country of mobility in order to encourage the participation of socio-economically disadvantaged students, students and staff with special needs, and students and staff from distant regions;

73.  Notes that the greater positive effect of, and higher demand for, Erasmus+ mobility grants in eastern and southern Europe contrast with a limited overall programme budget, which leads to a high proportion of rejected applications; proposes that the Commission step up efforts to promote mobility from western Europe to eastern Europe;

74.  Regrets that the growing inequality within and between some Member States and the high youth unemployment rate in the EU are making access to the programme difficult as they create barriers to mobility for applicants from lower-income regions that have been more heavily hit by the economic crisis and the cuts; states that the Erasmus+ programme and vocational and education training (VET) need to be active in remote and border regions of the EU too; considers the provision of access and equal opportunities for inhabitants of these regions to be a very positive move and a vehicle to cut youth unemployment and aid economic recovery;

75.  Underlines that grants to support the mobility of individuals within the Erasmus+ programme should be exempted from taxation and social levies;

76.  Calls on the Commission to recognise the special nature of projects and mobilities involving people with special needs and people from disadvantaged backgrounds; encourages stronger promotion of the possibilities for people with special needs and for people from disadvantaged backgrounds to engage in the programme, including refugees, and asks that their access thereto be facilitated;

77.  Stresses that although progress has been made in recognising study periods, credits, competences and skills through non-formal and informal learning gained abroad, these challenges remain; underlines that recognition of international qualifications is essential to mobility and forms the foundation for further cooperation in the European Higher Education Area; highlights the importance of making full use of all EU tools for the validation of knowledge, skills and competences essential to the recognition of qualifications;

78.  Emphasises that the number of study periods completed abroad through the Erasmus scheme has been steadily increasing since 2008, despite the economic, financial and social crisis; draws attention to the fact that, at the same time, the number of work placements abroad has increased exponentially; concludes that work placements are obviously regarded by young people as an excellent opportunity to enhance their employability; recommends that the Commission and national agencies, organisers and institutions take note of this development;

79.  Stresses that, due to the European Qualifications Framework (2008/C111/01), clear improvements have been made in recognition and validation systems of diplomas, qualifications, credits, skills certificates, competency accreditations in education and VET, but notes that problems still persist; highlights the importance of ensuring that the competences and qualifications developed through international mobility experience in any setting – formal learning environment, company traineeship or volunteering and youth activity – are properly documented, validated, recognised, and made comparable within the home system; calls on the Commission to reform and make progress towards strengthening the European Qualifications Framework from the current recommendation to a stronger instrument so as to support free movement; calls on the Commission and Member States to make systematic use of and further develop existing European instruments such as the Europass, Youthpass and ECVET; encourages the development of joint VET qualifications that can ensure international recognition of qualifications; calls on the Member States for the full and timely implementation of the Council Recommendation of 20 December 2012 on the validation of non-formal and informal learning;

80.  Highlights that non-formal adult education and learning promotes basic skills and soft skills such as social and civic competences that are relevant for the labour market as well as well-being at work and a good work-life balance; points out that non-formal adult education and learning play a crucial role in reaching out to disadvantaged groups in society and helping them develop skills that support them in entering the labour market and finding a sustainable and quality job, or improving their employment situation as well as contributing to a more democratic Europe;

81.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to promote VET programmes, points out that traineeship and internship systems are formative opportunities that do not substitute for full-time professional positions, that they must guarantee decent working conditions and adequate pay for apprentices and that in no instance should the competences attributed to beneficiaries be replaced by those proper to an employee;

82.  Notes the more demanding implementation work for NAs under the current programme; calls on the Commission to provide NAs with sufficient resources and the necessary assistance, thus enabling more efficient programme implementation and allowing NAs to tackle new challenges resulting from the budget increase;

83.  Calls on the Commission to monitor the quality criteria used by the National Agencies in project evaluations and exchanges of best practice in this regard; encourages training programmes for evaluators to enable them to continue their development, especially in cross-sector projects, and to allow them to provide quality feedback to all applicants in order to encourage the accomplishment of goals in future projects and to improve the performance of future applicants;

84.  Believes that quality measurement should be equally important as a quantitative measurement; calls for the elaboration of the former in the context of Erasmus+;

85.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to validate and recognise formal and non-formal learning and apprenticeships; encourages the Member States to provide young apprentices with better information on the possibilities open to them and to give more support to learning centres seeking to become involved in the Erasmus+ programme, but also to put in place ancillary measures in cases of cross-border mobility experience in neighbouring countries in order to assist apprentices with accommodation and transport;

86.  Supports greater mobility in education and in apprenticeship programmes and traineeship periods under the Youth Guarantee and Youth Employment Initiative programmes, with the aim of trying to ease the high levels of youth unemployment and geographical imbalances within the European Union;

87.  Urges the Commission to identify current unequal participation of VET institutions in the EU mobility programmes in countries and regions in order to diminish these differences through improved collaboration and exchange of information among national agencies for Erasmus+, supporting teamwork among VET institutions by connecting experienced VET institutions with other institutions, offering policy support measures and specific suggestions to VET institutions, and improving VET institution support systems already in place;

88.  Encourages the Member States, in order to foster the mobility of teachers, lecturers and non-academic staff, to acknowledge their participation in mobility programmes as an important part of their career progression, and if possible to introduce a reward system linked to participation in mobility programmes, for example in the form of financial benefits or reduction of workload;

89.  Calls on the National Agencies to provide full transparency while evaluating projects by publishing the list of selected projects, together with their ongoing progress and designated financial support;

90.  Encourages the continuation in Key Action 1 of the best function practices from Comenius, such as fostering school class exchanges and the possibility for school staff members to apply individually for mobility grants under Key Action 1;

91.  Notes that despite the high quality of projects in KA2, many of them have been refused owing to limited funding; encourages the Commission to mark these projects in order to help them attract investments from other sources; encourages the Member States to acknowledge the projects that have been given marks by granting them priority in accessing public funds for their implementation, if such funds are accessible;

92.  Calls on the Commission to continue efforts to resolve the funding challenge for European organisations based in Brussels in order to further their contribution to the development of European policies in the fields of education, training, youth and sport;

93.  Notes the challenges faced by NAs in implementing International Credit Mobility (ICM); calls for greater flexibility for NAs to allocate resources from some countries and regions to others for the purpose of meeting the cooperation priorities of the higher education institutions (HEIs);

94.  Notes the decreasing number of individual mobility participants outside of Erasmus+ as a result of preferential treatment by European HEIs of an institutionalised mobility system; encourages the Commission and national authorities to renew opportunities for individual candidates to participate in mobility;

95.  Encourages the Commission to bolster the VET system by promoting Leonardo da Vinci sub-programmes among new organisations and smaller institutions, in addition to providing them with assistance with applying for appropriate funding by offering further guidance, on-line training, and personalised support in preparing high-quality applications for funding through contact with national agencies for the Erasmus+ programme;

96.  Encourages the promotion of the European Higher Educational Area around the world, as well as the advancement of individual knowledge worldwide by enhancing all relevant stakeholders (Member States, the HEIs, higher education associations) to make the Erasmus Mundus Joint Master’s Degrees more attractive to HEIs and potential applicants;

97.  Suggests a greater involvement of NAs in education, training, youth and sport policy development by strengthening the links between the Commission, the Member States and National Agencies;

Next programme period

98.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to increase efforts to simplify procedures and reduce the high administrative burden for students, institutions and for host companies involved in Erasmus+ projects, in particular those that are not sufficiently exploiting this opportunity in order to improve and facilitate equal access, registration, validation and recognition processes; maintains that information on this programme has to be provided in all the official languages of the EU in order to encourage greater involvement; calls on the Commission and the national agencies to standardise the access criteria with a view to ensuring access for the highest number of applicants possible;

99.  Suggests that the priority should be to refrain from further harmonisation and major changes in the structure of the programme, and instead to safeguard and consolidate achievements and make incremental improvements where necessary;

100.  Recommends that the significance and visibility of non-formal education should be increased for both youth employment and adult education in Erasmus+, as non-formal education is important in the European citizenship sector and the promotion of democracy and education on values; the programme is, however, often only associated with formal education owing to its name;

101.  Calls on the Commission to involve relevant stakeholders in the work on the next funding programming period, and in the introduction of possible improvements, in order to ensure the programme's further success and added value;

102.  Recommends that Erasmus+ further develops cross-sector mobility of individuals within KA1, so that learners, teachers, educators, trainers, apprentices, workers and young people may engage fully in cross-sector mobility;

103.  Asks that a clear definition of cross-sectoral projects be developed in order to avoid confusion resulting from the mislabelling of projects;

104.   Not only calls for the current budget level to be secured for the next programme generation under the new MFF, but considers a further budget increase that ensures a level of annual funding for the next programme generation of at least the same level as the last year of implementation of the current framework to be an absolutely essential precondition for the continued success of the programme; proposes that the Commission explore the possibility of increasing pre-financing;

105.   Welcomes the structure of the programme and calls on the Commission to keep in the proposal for the next generation of programmes the separate chapters and separate budgets for education and training, for youth and for sport, bearing in mind their specific characters, and to adapt the application forms, reporting systems and requirements regarding the developed products sector-specifically;

106.   Encourages the national agencies to make the available budgets per key action and per sector easily accessible following each application round in order to allow applicants to strategically plan their future actions, and to publish the results of projects selection and budget lines, so that adequate external monitoring of the programme can take place;

107.  Calls on the Commission to regularly review the levels of financial support, such as lump sums for travel and subsistence allowances, in order to ensure that they match real living expenses and to avoid indebtedness caused by a training period, and therefore to help prevent discrimination and abandoning people with fewer financial means and/or special requirements;

108.  Indicates that disadvantaged groups are specifically targeted in the youth sector; suggests the extension of the Inclusion and Diversity Strategy to all programme sectors in order to promote social inclusion and the participation of people with special needs or with fewer opportunities in the Erasmus+ programme;

109.  Calls on the Commission to present and on Member States to endorse a quality framework for apprenticeships and a proposal on increased mobility for apprentices to ensure a set of rights for apprentices, interns, trainees and VET learners so as to ensure that they are adequately protected and that these mobility programmes never substitute standard employment contracts; calls for quality and remunerated traineeships and internships, and requests that the Member States report the situations where conditions concerning the tasks or rights of Erasmus+ beneficiaries are infringed;

110.  Calls on the Commission to work with the Member States to create stronger cooperation between education institutions and key stakeholders (local/regional authorities, social partners, the private sector, youth representatives, VET facilities, research organisations, and civil society organisations) in order to enhance the responsiveness of the education and VET systems to genuine labour market needs, and to guarantee that this cooperation is reflected in Erasmus+; believes that active involvement of beneficiaries and all stakeholders in the design, organisation, monitoring, implementation and evaluation of the programme ensures its viability, success and added value;

111.  Advocates allowing mobile students to combine studies abroad with a study-related placement within the programme, in this way facilitating their stay abroad, decreasing social selectivity, increasing the number of mobile students, upgrading students’ skills and enhancing the connections between higher education and the work environment; calls on the Commission to pay particular attention to the long-term mobility of apprentices when allocating Erasmus+ grants;

112.  Notes the imbalances between the Member States concerning admission criteria for the Erasmus+ programme; insists that the Commission ensure that the programme rules are applied in a harmonised way across national agencies, respecting common quality standards and procedural practices, and thus ensuring the internal and external coherence of Erasmus+ and positioning it as a true European programme; in this regard, calls on the Commission to develop a European implementation guideline for the Erasmus+ programme for the national agencies; encourages the national agencies, which have to be an inherent part of the monitoring process, to also focus on setting up or facilitating a forum for constructive dialogue between the authorities in charge of education and labour policies in each Member State; strongly encourages better coordination between the agencies to match the projects dealing with similar issues;

113.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to increase training opportunities abroad for VET and to position VET as a top choice for finding a job and starting on a promising career, and to ensure access for all citizens of all ages, and to provide adequate funding as the funds set aside for VET are not proportional(19) to the number of potential applicants for the mobility programmes on offer; strongly supports an efficient promotion and encouragement of VET mobility among women and considers that ambitious targets should be set by the Member States in this regard and the progress should be strictly monitored;

114.  Highlights that a redefinition of jobs and skills is taking place, especially due to the ongoing transition towards a more digitised economy with new business needs arising, and future-oriented sectors; calls on the Commission and the Member States to ensure that the Erasmus+ programme reflects this reality;

115.  Calls for greater promotion of mobility programmes for advanced levels of higher education to ensure mobility between European research centres and further develop the aim of making European universities international;

116.  Stresses the need to increase awareness of the Erasmus+ instrument as a means of improving an individual’s own skills and giving them an added dimension, which should ensure the right approach to this instrument for the purpose of guaranteeing its effectiveness, and eliminating the risk of turning it merely into a life experience;

117.  Calls on the Commission to draw up and make available updated statistics and conduct follow-up studies on the implementation of Erasmus+, in particular the take-up rate among young people, broken down by region and gender, the impact it has had on employability, as well as type and rate of employment, and impact on salaries and how it may potentially be improved; calls on the Commission to analyse why some countries are applying for more VET mobility, where the gender gap is greatest and reasons for this gap, or where there are more applicants with disabilities, and build a plan on how to increase the involvement of the other countries; calls therefore on national agencies in Member States to work closely on the exchange of information and statistics; maintains that the results of the studies and statistics need to be included and taken into consideration in the next Erasmus+ mid-term review;

118.  Recalls that at a time of particular crisis with regard to the fundamental values of the EU, the Erasmus+ instrument can provide a fundamental opportunity to promote integration, understanding and solidarity among young people; calls therefore for the integration of young people to be promoted by means of awareness of different cultures and traditions and their mutual and necessary respect;

119.  Proposes that the Commission maintains entrepreneurship education and training as one of the objectives of a future Erasmus+ programme in the next financial period (post-2020), including mobility, and includes the following elements as part of the programme:

(i)  careful assessment of the impact of existing measures promoting entrepreneurship through education and training and potentially adapt them, while paying special attention to the impact on under-represented and disadvantaged groups;

(ii)  promotion of better defined learning content and tools for formal and non-formal education targeting all students – both theoretical modules and practical modules, such as student entrepreneurial projects;

(iii)  promotion of partnerships between educational institutions, enterprises, non-profit organisations and non-formal education providers, in order to devise suitable courses and provide students with the requisite practical experience and models;

(iv)  development of skills in the areas of entrepreneurial processes, financial literacy, ICT literacy and skills, creative thinking, problem-solving and an innovative mind-set, self-confidence, adaptability, team-building, project management, risk assessment and risk-taking, as well as specific business skills and knowledge;

(v)  highlighting of non-formal and informal learning as a privileged environment to acquire entrepreneurship competences;

120.  Encourages Member States to take further part in the Erasmus Programme for Young Entrepreneurs and to promote it further among young people who wish to engage in business projects, so that they can gain experience abroad and acquire new skills which will help them to carry out their business projects successfully;

121.  Strongly encourages peer-to-peer learning following studies, training, and work experience abroad in order to increase the impact of Erasmus+ on local communities; highlights that the sharing of good practices is vital for improving the quality of the projects under Erasmus+; welcomes the Erasmus+ platform for dissemination of project results and calls for a stronger approach to the sharing of good practices and international exchanges of views for national agencies, partners, and programme beneficiaries; calls on the Commission to provide support to programme applicants to find international partners, by developing user friendly platforms that combine public information about the various beneficiaries and their projects;

122.  Calls on the Commission to improve the programme guide and make it more user-friendly and understandable, and to develop specific information brochures on each of the key actions; calls on the Commission to streamline the application process in terms of administrative burdens;

123.  Supports the development of adult learning institutions through on-going professional development and mobility opportunities for teachers, school leaders, trainers and other education staff; encourages the development of skills and competences, particularly in the effective use of ICT in adult learning, for improved learning outcomes; underlines the importance of exchanging best practices;

124.  Welcomes the development of pilot projects such the ‘European framework for mobility of apprentices: developing European citizenship and skills through youth integration in the labour market’ aimed at implementing cost-efficient cross-border apprentice mobility schemes between VET institutions, companies and/or other relevant organisations, as well as formally recognising and validating learning outcomes and supporting the mutual recognition of diplomas, and ‘Youth mobility in vocational training – Better youth mobility’ aimed at improving the mobility of young people in vocational training; calls on the Commission to implement effectively the two pilot projects and their long-term integration into the Erasmus+ programme;

125.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to guarantee increased and more long-term structural support to European civil society organisations in the field of education, training, youth and sport in the form of operating grants, as they are the organisations providing learning opportunities and participation spaces to European citizens and residents to develop and implement European policies;

126.  Calls on the Commission to consider an appropriate solution to the situation of the European level non-governmental organisation based in Brussels applying for funds in Belgian national agencies;

127.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council and the Commission, and to the parliaments and governments of the Member States.

(1)

OJ L 347, 20.12.2013, p. 50.

(2)

OJ L 394, 30.12.2006, p. 10.

(3)

OJ C 311, 19.12.2009, p. 1.

(4)

OJ C 351 E, 2.12.2011, p. 29.

(5)

OJ C 377 E, 7.12.2012, p. 77.

(6)

OJ C 372, 20.12.2011, p. 1.

(7)

OJ C 372, 20.12.2011, p. 31.

(8)

OJ C 398, 22.12.2012, p. 1.

(9)

OJ C 70, 8.3.2012, p. 9.

(10)

Texts adopted, P7_TA(2013)0433.

(11)

Texts adopted, P8_TA(2015)0292.

(12)

OJ C 172, 27.5.2015, p. 17.

(13)

OJ C 417, 15.12.2015, p. 36.

(14)

Texts adopted, P8_TA(2016)0106.

(15)

Texts adopted, P8_TA(2016)0107.

(16)

Texts adopted, P8_TA(2016)0291.

(17)

http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/education_culture/repository/education/library/study/2014/erasmus-impact_en.pdf

(18)

JRC Science and Policy Report on Languages and Employability, 2015.

(19)

According to the Commission, in 2016, owing to a lack of funding, the success rate of eligible applications for VET mobility under Erasmus+ was 42 %. The situation has worsened over the years – in 2014 the success rate was 54 %, and then in 2015 it was 48 %. Although the funding available has increased slightly over the years, the demand has grown much faster, but the limited resources of Erasmus+ does not allow for funding to keep up the pace with demand.


OPINION of the Committee on Budgets (10.11.2016)

for the Committee on Culture and Education

on the implementation of Regulation (EU) No 1288/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 December 2013 establishing ‘Erasmus+’: the Union programme for education, training, youth and sport and repealing Decisions No 1719/2006/EC, No 1720/2006/EC and No 1298/2008/EC

(2015/2327(INI))

Rapporteur: Andrey Novakov

SUGGESTIONS

The Committee on Budgets calls on the Committee on Culture and Education, as the committee responsible, to incorporate the following suggestions into its motion for a resolution:

1.  Points out that Erasmus+ is the EU’s flagship mobility, education and training programme, which has been allocated a 40 % budget increase as compared to the 2007-2013 period, given the positive results and high demand;

2.  Recognises that investment from the EU budget under Erasmus+ contributes significantly to skills improvement, employability and a lower risk of long-term unemployment for young Europeans, as well as to active citizenship and social inclusion of young people;

3.  Welcomes the structure of the programme, with separate budget chapters per sector, and encourages the Commission to keep separate budget chapters in the proposal for the next generation of programmes;

4.  Recognises the economic and social value of volunteering and encourages the Commission to better support volunteer-based organisations across the programme actions;

5.  Notes regional imbalances at EU level and among areas within Member States in participation in Erasmus+-funded actions; is concerned that the success rates of its actions are relatively low, and divergent across the EU; calls for targeted and timely action to widen participation and improve success rates regardless of the origin of applicants, which seeks to earmark some of the funding for specific measures to promote and raise awareness of this initiative, particularly in those regions where access to funding has remained relatively low;

6.  Welcomes the Commission proposal to increase the commitments for Erasmus+ by EUR 200 million for the rest of the current MFF, and to increase the payments by 4.5 % in the 2017 draft budget; calls on the Commission to pay particular attention to the long-term mobility of apprentices when allocating Erasmus+ grants; notes that 48 % of national agencies (NAs) report that programme actions are under-budgeted; calls on the Commission to propose an adequate multiannual payment plan and encourages the Commission to propose a level of annual funding for the next generation of programmes at least equal to that of the final year of implementation of the current framework; proposes that the Commission explore the possibility of increasing pre-financing;

7.  Notes that the greater positive effect of, and higher demand for, Erasmus+ mobility grants in eastern and southern Europe contrast with a limited overall programme budget, which leads to a high proportion of rejected applications; proposes that the Commission step up efforts to promote mobility from western Europe to eastern Europe;

8.  Stresses that the youth chapter of the programme is the one most affected by European citizens’ increasing interest in Erasmus+; notes that, at present, 36 % of all Erasmus+ submissions are in the field of youth, with a 60 % increase in submissions between 2014 and 2016;

9.  Invites the Commission and, respectively, the Directorate-General for Education and Culture (DG EAC) and the Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency (EACEA) to enable further promotion of decentralised actions such as Key Action 2 by proposing adequate funding that is proportional to the size of the actions;

10.  Notes that Erasmus+ implementation in the EU’s regions reveals different funding demands and intervention priorities which require some Member States to refocus the programme intervention to ensure cost-effectiveness of the money spent;

11.  Is concerned about NAs’ difficulties in interpretation and application of programme rules; recalls that 82 % of the Erasmus+ budget is managed under decentralised actions; calls on the Commission to streamline definitions and improve guidance on decentralised actions in order to ensure best results for the EU budget and avoid error rates;

12.  Notes that 75 % of NAs reported a high administrative burden, which decreases EU budget investment capacity and threatens to have a direct impact on beneficiaries; calls on DG EAC and the EACEA to improve implementation, especially in the application process;

13.  Welcomes the simplified financial management and the use of a unit cost system; notes that, owing to regulatory requirements, some Member States cannot apply this system or find cost levels inadequate as compared with actual costs; is concerned that NAs are reporting a higher audit burden;

14.  Believes that NA performance should be regularly assessed and improved in order to safeguard the performance of EU-funded actions; acknowledges that participation rates and participants’ and partners’ experience should be key in this respect;

15.  Supports increased effectiveness and efficiency through larger-scale projects; notes, however, that there has to be a balance between small and large groups of applicants;

16.  Regrets that, owing to the high administrative burden, Erasmus+ funding can be unattainable for smaller organisations; believes that bureaucracy and reporting requirements should be simplified;

17.  Regrets that the lengthy payment periods in Erasmus+ affect the possibilities of smaller organisations to apply for funding;

18.  Is of the opinion that volunteering should be considered eligible as a source of own contribution to the project budget as this facilitates the participation of smaller organisations.

RESULT OF FINAL VOTE IN COMMITTEE ASKED FOR OPINION

Date adopted

10.11.2016

 

 

 

Result of final vote

+:

–:

0:

27

2

0

Members present for the final vote

Jean Arthuis, Richard Ashworth, Reimer Böge, Lefteris Christoforou, Jean-Paul Denanot, Gérard Deprez, José Manuel Fernandes, Eider Gardiazabal Rubial, Jens Geier, Esteban González Pons, Monika Hohlmeier, Vladimír Maňka, Ernest Maragall, Clare Moody, Siegfried Mureşan, Liadh Ní Riada, Jan Olbrycht, Patricija Šulin, Indrek Tarand, Isabelle Thomas, Monika Vana, Daniele Viotti, Marco Zanni, Auke Zijlstra

Substitutes present for the final vote

Andrey Novakov, Stanisław Ożóg, Nils Torvalds, Tomáš Zdechovský

Substitutes under Rule 200(2) present for the final vote

John Stuart Agnew


OPINION of the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs (17.11.2016)

for the Committee on Culture and Education

on the implementation of Regulation (EU) No 1288/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 December 2013 establishing ‘Erasmus +’: the Union programme for education, training, youth and sport and repealing Decisions No 1719/2006/EC, No 1720/2006/EC and No 1298/2006/EC

(2015/2327(INI))

Rapporteur: Emilian Pavel

SUGGESTIONS

The Committee on Employment and Social Affairs calls on the Committee on Culture and Education, as the committee responsible, to incorporate the following suggestions into its motion for a resolution:

A.  whereas, according to Eurostat, unemployment was still at 10.1 % in July 2016; whereas across the EU, youth unemployment stands at 18.8 %;

B.  whereas the results of the Erasmus Impact Study of 2014(1) show that those who have studied or trained abroad are twice as likely to find work compared to others who lack similar experience;

C.  whereas the unemployment rate for those who have studied or trained abroad is 23 % lower five years after graduating(2);

D.  whereas 85 % of Erasmus students study or train abroad in order to enhance their employability abroad(3);

E.  whereas nowadays 64 % of employers think international experience is important for recruitment; whereas this was only 37 % in 2006(4);

F.  whereas 64 % of employers say graduates with an international background are given greater professional responsibility(5);

G.  whereas one in three Erasmus trainees is offered a job at the enterprise where they did their traineeship(6);

H.  whereas almost 1 in 10 Erasmus trainees who did work placements have started their own company and 3 out of 4 plan to or can envisage doing the same(7);

I.  whereas the Erasmus+ programme, which runs from 2014 to 2020, is aimed at modernising education, training and youth work across Europe and is open to education, training, youth and sports organisations across all sectors of lifelong learning; whereas it will provide opportunities for over four million Europeans to study, train, gain work experience and volunteer abroad;

1.  Considers that the Erasmus+ programme plays a vital role in fostering European identity and integration, solidarity, inclusive and sustainable growth, quality employment, competitiveness, social cohesion and youth labour mobility by making a positive contribution to the improvement of European education and training systems, lifelong learning, active European citizenship, and better prospects for employment, by providing Europeans with an opportunity to acquire transversal and transferable sets of personal and professional skills and competences via studies, training, work experience abroad, and volunteering, as well as by offering individuals the chance to live more independently, adapt more easily and achieve personal development;

2.  Considers that Erasmus+ is one of the key pillars for adapting the European population to lifelong learning; calls on the Commission and the national agencies to better promote the relevance of cross-cutting projects, as further emphasis needs to be given to the lifelong learning dimension of the programme;

3.  Points out that, at present, only 1 % of young people in work-related training schemes, including apprentices, are involved in mobility schemes during their training; points out that it is essential to create the conditions for greater apprentice mobility within the EU, so as to give apprentices the same opportunities as higher education students and thus meet the objectives of the fight against unemployment, particularly youth unemployment; encourages the Member States to provide young apprentices with better information on the possibilities open to them and to give more support to learning centres seeking to become involved in the Erasmus+ programme, but also to put in place ancillary measures in cases of cross-border mobility experience in neighbouring countries in order to assist apprentices with accommodation and transport;

4  Emphasises that the number of study periods completed abroad through the Erasmus scheme has been steadily increasing since 2008, despite the economic, financial and social crisis; draws attention to the fact that, at the same time, the number of work placements abroad has increased exponentially; concludes that work placements are obviously regarded by young people as an excellent opportunity to enhance their employability; recommends that the Commission and national agencies, organisers and institutions take note of this development;

5.  Regrets that the growing inequality within and between some Member States and the high youth unemployment rate in the EU are making access to the programme difficult as they create barriers to mobility for applicants from lower-income regions that have been more heavily hit by the economic crisis and the cuts; states that the Erasmus+ programme and vocational and education training (VET) need to be active in remote and border regions of the EU too; considers the provision of access and equal opportunities for inhabitants of these regions to be a very positive move and a vehicle to cut youth unemployment and aid economic recovery;

6.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to increase efforts to simplify procedures and reduce the high administrative burden for students, institutions and for host companies involved in Erasmus+ projects, in particular those that are not sufficiently exploiting this opportunity in order to improve and facilitate equal access, registration, validation and recognition processes; maintains that information on this programme has to be provided in all the official languages of the EU in order to encourage greater involvement; calls on the Commission and the national agencies to standardise the access criteria with a view to ensuring access for the highest number of applicants possible; encourages the national agencies to make the available budgets per key action and per sector easily accessible following each application round in order to allow applicants to strategically plan their future actions, and to publish the results of projects selection and budget lines, so that adequate external monitoring of the programme can take place; calls on the Commission and the Member States to ensure that large institutions are not favoured over their smaller less well-established counterparts, in terms of programme applicants;

7.  Continues to express concern that Erasmus+ is viewed by young people and the wider public primarily as a programme for higher education; recommends, therefore, that greater importance be attached to raising the profile at the European, national and regional level of the different sectors that people can apply for, including school-level education, higher education, international higher education, vocational education and training, adult education, youth and sport, and volunteering as well as highlighting the possibility of having cross-cutting projects, notably by means of an information campaign and public relations work regarding the content of all programmes;

8.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States, including EU agencies such as Cedefop, to improve the quality, accessibility and equality of access to VET mobility programmes so that they deliver added value for all participants as regards qualification, recognition and content, and to ensure that quality standards are introduced for apprenticeship programmes;

9.  Notes the imbalances between the Member States concerning admission criteria for the Erasmus+ programme; insists that the Commission ensure that the programme rules are applied in a harmonised way across national agencies, respecting common quality standards and procedural practices, and thus ensuring the internal and external coherence of Erasmus+ and positioning it as a true European programme; in this regard, calls on the Commission to develop a European implementation guideline for the Erasmus+ programme for the national agencies; encourages the national agencies, which have to be an inherent part of the monitoring process, to also focus on setting up or facilitating a forum for constructive dialogue between the authorities in charge of education and labour policies in each Member State; strongly encourages better coordination between the agencies to match the projects dealing with similar issues;

10.  Points to Erasmus+ as an important instrument for improving the quality of VET across the EU; highlights the fact that inclusive quality VET and VET mobility play a vital economic and social role in Europe, in a rapidly changing labour market, as a means of providing young people and adults with the professional and life skills needed for a transition from education and training to work; stresses that VET and VET mobility should foster equal opportunities, non-discrimination and social inclusion for all citizens, including women who are under-represented in VET and people in vulnerable situations including Roma, unemployed young people, people with disabilities, inhabitants of remote areas, inhabitants of outermost regions, and migrants; suggests also focusing on low-qualified beneficiaries in order to increase their participation and thereby improve the outreach of the programmes;

11.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to increase training opportunities abroad for VET and to position VET as a top choice for finding a job and starting on a promising career, and to ensure access for all citizens of all ages, and to provide adequate funding as the funds set aside for VET are not proportional(8) to the number of potential applicants for the mobility programmes on offer; strongly supports an efficient promotion and encouragement of VET mobility among women and considers that ambitious targets should be set by the Member States in this regard and the progress should be strictly monitored;

12.  Highlights that a redefinition of jobs and skills is taking place, especially due to the ongoing transition towards a more digitised economy with new business needs arising, and future-oriented sectors; calls on the Commission and the Member States to ensure that the Erasmus+ programme reflects this reality;

13.  Calls on the Commission to regularly review the levels of financial support, such as lump sums for travel and subsistence allowances, in order to ensure that they match real living expenses and to avoid indebtedness caused by a training period, and therefore to help prevent discrimination and abandoning people with fewer financial means and/or special requirements;

14.  Highlights the importance of clear learning outcomes and specific job descriptions for Erasmus+ work experiences abroad for vocational education and training students, trainees, and apprentices, and volunteers; stresses that the preparation of the candidates before their international experience is an integral part of the activity and needs to include career guidance sessions and language courses, as well as social and cultural integration training courses, including cross-cultural communication that would foster people’s participation in society and improve their working and living conditions; taking into account the importance of multilingualism in improving the employability of young people, considers that more efforts should be made to promote and support multilingualism in the Erasmus+ programme; welcomes the fact that the foreign language skills of participants in Erasmus+ projects will be enhanced, including neighbouring languages that can increase mobility and employability in the cross-border labour market; considers that the language courses for incoming mobility participants could be delivered in cooperation with the educational institutions and the host companies, and adapted to their field of study or traineeship;

15.  Acknowledges that, with regard to the high youth unemployment rates in certain Member States, a primary objective of Erasmus+ is to prepare young people for employment; places particular emphasis, at the same time, on the need to preserve the status of activities outside of school, vocational training and study within the Erasmus+ programme;

16.  Stresses that previously, Erasmus and Leonardo were mainly geared towards young people with higher skills levels and with better labour market access options and fell short in targeting the most vulnerable; points to the EU target to decrease early school leaving and poverty; stresses that early school leavers, a high-risk group for poverty and unemployment, should be strongly targeted by Member States in implementing Erasmus+; stresses that programmes for early school leavers cannot be the standard mainstream VET or exchange programmes but should focus on their specific needs, on easy access and uncomplicated funding hand-in-hand with informal or non-formal learning environments;

17.  Reminds the Commission that people with disabilities such as the hearing impaired have special needs and therefore need adequate funding and appropriate support, such as sign language interpreters, and access to greater information and a reasonable grant so they are able to access the Erasmus+ programme; calls on the Commission to continue its work on introducing further measures to grant people with disabilities barrier-free and non-discriminatory access to all scholarship programmes in the framework of Erasmus+; considers it worthwhile, if deemed necessary, to appoint so-called coaches within national agencies aimed at advising on the best possible allocation of funding;

18.  Considers that there is room for improvement in the promotion of youth work, artistic and cultural activities, political participation, adult education and mass sports;

19.  Calls on the Commission to present and on Member States to endorse a quality framework for apprenticeships and a proposal on increased mobility for apprentices to ensure a set of rights for apprentices, interns, trainees and VET learners so as to ensure that they are adequately protected and that these mobility programmes never substitute standard employment contracts; calls for quality and remunerated traineeships and internships, and requests that the Member States report the situations where conditions concerning the tasks or rights of Erasmus+ beneficiaries are infringed;

20.  Calls on the Commission to work with the Member States to create stronger cooperation between education institutions and key stakeholders (local/regional authorities, social partners, the private sector, youth representatives, VET facilities, research organisations, and civil society organisations) in order to enhance the responsiveness of the education and VET systems to genuine labour market needs, and to guarantee that this cooperation is reflected in Erasmus+; believes that active involvement of beneficiaries and all stakeholders in the design, organisation, monitoring, implementation and evaluation of the programme ensures its viability, success and added value;

21.  Calls for greater promotion of mobility programmes for advanced levels of higher education to ensure mobility between European research centres and further develop the aim of making European universities international;

22.  Strongly encourages more transparency in the evaluation of applications and the quality feedback to all applicants; calls on the Commission to ensure an effective feedback system in order for the programme beneficiaries to report back to the Commission on any irregularities that they might identify with respect to the implementation of the Erasmus+ programme; further calls on the Commission to improve and increase the flow of information between the European institutions responsible for implementing the programme and the national bodies; encourages national agencies and the Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency, with a view to improving the implementation of the programme, to provide training opportunities for evaluators, and to organise regular meetings with beneficiaries and visits to projects;

23.  Stresses that, due to the European Qualifications Framework (2008/C111/01), clear improvements have been made in recognition and validation systems of diplomas, qualifications, credits, skills certificates, competency accreditations in education and VET, but notes that problems still persist; highlights the importance of ensuring that the competences and qualifications developed through international mobility experience in any setting – formal learning environment, company traineeship or volunteering and youth activity – are properly documented, validated, recognised, and made comparable within the home system; calls on the Commission to reform and make progress towards strengthening the European Qualifications Framework from the current recommendation to a stronger instrument so as to support free movement; calls on the Commission and Member States to make systematic use of and further develop existing European instruments such as the Europass, Youthpass and ECVET; encourages the development of joint VET qualifications that can ensure international recognition of qualifications; calls on the Member States for the full and timely implementation of the Council Recommendation of 20 December 2012 on the validation of non-formal and informal learning;

24.  Highlights that volunteering is an expression of solidarity, freedom and responsibility that contributes to the strengthening of active citizenship and to personal human development; considers that volunteering is also an essential tool for social inclusion and cohesion, as well as training, education and intercultural dialogue, while making an important contribution to the dissemination of European values; believes that the European Voluntary Service (EVS) should be recognised for its role in fostering the development of skills and competences that can facilitate the access of the EVS participants to the labour market; calls on the Commission and the Member States to ensure decent working conditions for the volunteers and monitor whether the contracts under which volunteers work are fully respected; calls on the Commission and the Member States to ensure that participants in the European Voluntary Service are never considered or used as a labour replacement;

25.  Highlights that non-formal adult education and learning promotes basic skills and soft skills such as social and civic competences that are relevant for the labour market as well as well-being at work and a good work-life balance; points out that non-formal adult education and learning play a crucial role in reaching out to disadvantaged groups in society and helping them develop skills that support them in entering the labour market and finding a sustainable and quality job, or improving their employment situation as well as contributing to a more democratic Europe;

26.  Notes the new societal challenges and the job content that is under constant evolution; recalls that the Erasmus+ programme also prepares young people for employment and considers that a special focus should be laid on a shift from on-the-job-competences to soft skills, promoting the acquisition of transversal and transferable sets of skills and competences such as entrepreneurship, ICT literacy, creative thinking, problem-solving and an innovative mind-set, self-confidence, adaptability, team-building, project management, risk assessment and risk-taking, as well as social and civic competences that are highly relevant for the labour market; considers that this should also include well-being at work, a good work-life balance, and the integration of people in vulnerable situations into the labour market and society;

27.  Taking into account the importance of multilingualism in raising the employability of young people(9), considers that more efforts should be made to promote and support multilingualism in the Erasmus+ programme;

28.  Stresses the requirement to support, either financially or by means of tax incentives, SMEs that offer vocational training under the Erasmus+ programme;

29.  Believes that quality measurement should be equally important as a quantitative measurement; calls for the elaboration of the former in the context of Erasmus +;

30.  Stresses the need to increase awareness of the Erasmus+ instrument as a means of improving an individual’s own skills and giving them an added dimension, which should ensure the right approach to this instrument for the purpose of guaranteeing its effectiveness, and eliminating the risk of turning it merely into a life experience;

31.  Supports greater mobility in education and in apprenticeship programmes and traineeship periods under the Youth Guarantee and Youth Employment Initiative programmes, with the aim of trying to ease the high levels of youth unemployment and geographical imbalances within the European Union;

32.  Calls on the Commission to draw up and make available updated statistics and conduct follow-up studies on the implementation of Erasmus+, in particular the take-up rate among young people, broken down by region and gender, the impact it has had on employability, as well as type and rate of employment, and impact on salaries and how it may potentially be improved; calls on the Commission to analyse why some countries are applying for more VET mobility, where the gender gap is greatest and reasons for this gap, or where there are more applicants with disabilities, and build a plan on how to increase the involvement of the other countries; calls therefore on national agencies in Member States to work closely on the exchange of information and statistics; maintains that the results of the studies and statistics need to be included and taken into consideration in the next Erasmus+ mid-term review;

33.  Recalls that at a time of particular crisis with regard to the fundamental values of the EU, the Erasmus+ instrument can provide a fundamental opportunity to promote integration, understanding and solidarity among young people; calls therefore for the integration of young people to be promoted by means of awareness of different cultures and traditions and their mutual and necessary respect;

34.  Proposes that the Commission maintains entrepreneurship education and training as one of the objectives of a future Erasmus+ programme in the next financial period (post-2020), including mobility, and includes the following elements as part of the programme:

(i)  careful assessment of the impact of existing measures promoting entrepreneurship through education and training and potentially adapt them, while paying special attention to the impact on under-represented and disadvantaged groups;

(ii)  promotion of better defined learning content and tools for formal and non-formal education targeting all students – both theoretical modules and practical modules, such as student entrepreneurial projects;

(iii)  promotion of partnerships between educational institutions, enterprises, non-profit organisations and non-formal education providers, in order to devise suitable courses and provide students with the requisite practical experience and models;

(iv)  development of skills in the areas of entrepreneurial processes, financial literacy, ICT literacy and skills, creative thinking, problem-solving and an innovative mind-set, self-confidence, adaptability, team-building, project management, risk assessment and risk-taking, as well as specific business skills and knowledge;

(v)  highlighting of non-formal and informal learning as a privileged environment to acquire entrepreneurship competences;

35.  Encourages Member States to take further part in the Erasmus Programme for Young Entrepreneurs and to promote it further among young people who wish to engage in business projects, so that they can gain experience abroad and acquire new skills which will help them to carry out their business projects successfully;

36.  Strongly encourages peer-to-peer learning following studies, training, and work experience abroad in order to increase the impact of Erasmus+ on local communities; highlights that the sharing of good practices is vital for improving the quality of the projects under Erasmus+; welcomes the Erasmus+ platform for dissemination of project results and calls for a stronger approach to the sharing of good practices and international exchanges of views for national agencies, partners, and programme beneficiaries; calls on the Commission to provide support to programme applicants to find international partners, by developing user friendly platforms that combine public information about the various beneficiaries and their projects;

37.  Calls on the Commission to optimise the performance and user-friendliness of IT tools, such as the Mobility Tool, or other IT support platforms such as the Electronic Platform for Adult Learning in Europe (EPALE), in order to ensure that the programme beneficiaries make the most of their experiences, as well as promoting cross-border collaboration and the sharing of best practices;

38.  Calls on the Commission to improve the programme guide and make it more user-friendly and understandable, and to develop specific information brochures on each of the key actions; calls on the Commission to streamline the application process in terms of administrative burdens;

39.  Supports the development of adult learning institutions through on-going professional development and mobility opportunities for teachers, school leaders, trainers and other education staff; encourages the development of skills and competences, particularly in the effective use of ICT in adult learning, for improved learning outcomes; underlines the importance of exchanging best practices;

40.  Welcomes the development of pilot projects such the ‘European framework for mobility of apprentices: developing European citizenship and skills through youth integration in the labour market’ aimed at implementing cost-efficient cross-border apprentice mobility schemes between VET institutions, companies and/or other relevant organisations, as well as formally recognising and validating learning outcomes and supporting the mutual recognition of diplomas, and ‘Youth mobility in vocational training – Better youth mobility’ aimed at improving the mobility of young people in vocational training; calls on the Commission to implement effectively the two pilot projects and their long-term integration into the Erasmus+ programme;

41.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to guarantee increased and more long-term structural support to European civil society organisations in the field of education, training, youth and sport in the form of operating grants, as they are the organisations providing learning opportunities and participation spaces to European citizens and residents to develop and implement European policies;

42.  Calls on the Commission to consider an appropriate solution to the situation of the European level non-governmental organisation based in Brussels applying for funds in Belgian national agencies.

RESULT OF FINAL VOTE IN COMMITTEE ASKED FOR OPINION

Date adopted

8.11.2016

 

 

 

Result of final vote

+:

–:

0:

48

3

1

Members present for the final vote

Laura Agea, Guillaume Balas, Brando Benifei, Vilija Blinkevičiūtė, Enrique Calvet Chambon, David Casa, Ole Christensen, Martina Dlabajová, Lampros Fountoulis, Arne Gericke, Marian Harkin, Danuta Jazłowiecka, Agnes Jongerius, Rina Ronja Kari, Jan Keller, Ádám Kósa, Jean Lambert, Patrick Le Hyaric, Jeroen Lenaers, Verónica Lope Fontagné, Javi López, Morten Løkkegaard, Thomas Mann, Dominique Martin, Anthea McIntyre, Joëlle Mélin, Elisabeth Morin-Chartier, Emilian Pavel, João Pimenta Lopes, Georgi Pirinski, Terry Reintke, Sofia Ribeiro, Maria João Rodrigues, Claude Rolin, Anne Sander, Sven Schulze, Siôn Simon, Jutta Steinruck, Yana Toom, Renate Weber, Tatjana Ždanoka, Jana Žitňanská

Substitutes present for the final vote

Daniela Aiuto, Georges Bach, Amjad Bashir, Sergio Gutiérrez Prieto, Csaba Sógor, Helga Stevens, Neoklis Sylikiotis, Tom Vandenkendelaere, Flavio Zanonato

Substitutes under Rule 200(2) present for the final vote

David Coburn

(1)

http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/education_culture/repository/education/library/study/2014/erasmus-impact_en.pdf

(2)

http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/education_culture/repository/education/library/study/2014/erasmus-impact_en.pdf

(3)

http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/education_culture/repository/education/library/study/2014/erasmus-impact_en.pdf

(4)

http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/education_culture/repository/education/library/study/2014/erasmus-impact_en.pdf

(5)

http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/education_culture/repository/education/library/study/2014/erasmus-impact_en.pdf

(6)

http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/education_culture/repository/education/library/study/2014/erasmus-impact_en.pdf

(7)

http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/education_culture/repository/education/library/study/2014/erasmus-impact_en.pdf

(8)

According to the Commission, in 2016, owing to a lack of funding, the success rate of eligible applications for VET mobility under Erasmus+ was 42 %. The situation has worsened over the years – in 2014 the success rate was 54 %, and then in 2015 it was 48 %. Although the funding available has increased slightly over the years, the demand has grown much faster, but the limited resources of Erasmus+ does not allow for funding to keep up the pace with demand.

(9)

JRC Science and Policy Report on Languages and Employability, 2015.


RESULT OF FINAL VOTE IN COMMITTEE RESPONSIBLE

Date adopted

5.12.2016

 

 

 

Result of final vote

+:

–:

0:

21

0

3

Members present for the final vote

Isabella Adinolfi, Dominique Bilde, Andrea Bocskor, Nikolaos Chountis, Silvia Costa, Mircea Diaconu, Angel Dzhambazki, María Teresa Giménez Barbat, Petra Kammerevert, Andrew Lewer, Svetoslav Hristov Malinov, Stefano Maullu, Luigi Morgano, Momchil Nekov, Michaela Šojdrová, Helga Trüpel, Sabine Verheyen, Bogdan Brunon Wenta, Bogdan Andrzej Zdrojewski, Milan Zver, Krystyna Łybacka

Substitutes present for the final vote

Dietmar Köster, Ernest Maragall, Liliana Rodrigues

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