EP President Speech on the Erasmus Thirtieth Anniversary Celebrations
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Dear representatives of Erasmus,
Today we are celebrating the thirtieth anniversary of the Erasmus programme. It is a great success story which has helped to bring Europe, and all the freedoms and opportunities it represents, closer to nine million young people.
It is no coincidence that the programme should have taken its name from Erasmus of Rotterdam, a great humanist of the Renaissance. He was one of the fathers of free thought and free universities, which are at the heart of our identity as Europeans.
Erasmus stands for exchanges, for meetings between cultures and ideas, for the learning of languages and new ways of thinking, for flexibility and willingness to change, for the importance of understanding others.
Erasmus of Rotterdam’s most famous work, In Praise of Folly, is part of our cultural heritage: it teaches that we should think for ourselves, and be creative. In part, by doing just that, the Erasmus programme has prepared whole generations not only for the challenge of broadening their horizons, but also for the task of finding a job or setting up a business.
One person’s idea can change Europe. This is how Erasmus came into being, from an idea which Sofia Corradi - Mamma Erasmus - had. Professor Corradi was undaunted by the obstacles she faced and believed in a dream that became a reality in part thanks to her determination.
Erasmus began in 1987, with barely 3000 students from eleven countries. At the time, studying abroad was a privilege enjoyed by only a few. Thirty years later, European mobility has become the norm. The Erasmus generation is the symbol of a cultural revolution.
Today we have invited representatives of the nine million Erasmus students to share their experiences and celebrate with us. We have with us the managing director of a successful firm, a Paralympic swimming champion, a designer, a leading chef, and Portugal’s Minister of Education (Tiago Brandao Rodrigues).
Given its extraordinary importance as a force for integration and a symbol of European culture, I believe that Erasmus must be seen as much more than just a programme; it must be seen as an opportunity for every young person in Europe, regardless of family income or educational background. Recognising this should inspire us to work to secure a properly funded European budget. More funding for Erasmus means less youth unemployment.
In the Rome Declaration we committed ourselves to creating a Europe in which young people receive the best possible education and training and can study and find work anywhere on our continent.
The European Parliament will ensure that this pledge is honoured.
For this first generation of Europeans who did not experience the Cold War or the Berlin Wall, the European Union does not stand only for peace among the peoples of our continent, it stands for integration, it stands for Erasmus. Thank you.