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 Full text 
Thursday, 28 March 2019 - Strasbourg Revised edition

'Erasmus': the Union programme for education, training, youth and sport (debate)

  Marianne Thyssen, Member of the Commission. – Madam President, I am pleased to join you today for this debate on the future Erasmus programme. I think we all agree that Erasmus is the European Union’s most iconic programme and one of its biggest success stories. Erasmus is a true expression of what the European Union stands for and what it can do for our people. It has changed the lives of millions of Europeans and changed them for the better.

With this in mind, the Commission has tabled an ambitious proposal for a new Erasmus programme. We propose to double the budget and build on the success of the current programme. At the same time, we propose to add some promising new elements.

Let me first of all thank the rapporteur, Mr Zver, and his shadow rapporteurs, as well as all the Members of the Committee on Culture and Education (CULT) and, of course, of the other committees that give an opinion, and all those who have contributed to this report. The Commission is fully aware that the programme and its participants from universities, FET colleges, apprentices and high schools, are just as dear to you as they are to us. I would therefore like to take this occasion to wholeheartedly thank you for your enthusiasm and for your support for the Commission’s proposal.

The Commission is also happy to see that our two institutions have largely converging positions on most features of the future programmes. We share the Parliament’s objectives to make the programme even more inclusive, to make it simpler for our beneficiaries and to further exploit the potential for synergies with other sources of EU funding. Fundamentally, we want Erasmus to reach more people and especially people from diverse socio—economic backgrounds. We want Erasmus to become more open to smaller organisations, notably by cutting the paperwork. We also want to boost mobility for school pupils, learners in vocational education and training, and for youth exchanges. This will strongly diversify the profile of Erasmus participants.

I know that this House takes a lot of interest in synergies and complementarities between EU funding programmes, and I can assure you that Erasmus will benefit from this. For example, the future European Social Fund Plus could top up individual mobility grants to support people with fewer opportunities or skill up the results of successful Erasmus projects. For this to become a reality, we need to involve all actors, including at national and regional level. What matters most is that we put funding to its best and most efficient use.

The future Erasmus programme will also be instrumental in creating a genuine European education area by 2025, where learners can move freely across borders and between disciplines, and where education and training systems are inclusive, innovative and geared towards lifelong learning. I appreciate that you support the Commission in this effort.

In order to help turn this vision into reality, the future Erasmus programme will support ambitious new initiatives, such as the European Universities Initiative or the Centres of Vocational Excellence. They have the potential to become new flagships of the programme, together with the new DiscoverEU initiative. The idea for DiscoverEU, namely to offer 18-year-old young people a ticket to travel Europe, has enormous potential, especially if it is reinforced with a strong learning dimension, as you rightly request.

It’s now important that we negotiate the new programme quickly so that it will soon be a reality. The Commission therefore regrets that the Parliament is not willing to start negotiations for Erasmus before the elections, while the Commission and the Presidency would have been keen to do so. We would consider it a pity if this well-known and successful programme risked delays in kicking off due to a late start of the negotiations.

The Commission believes that this report provides a good basis to reach an agreement between the institutions swiftly. I am convinced that the European Parliament will again be a powerful ally in creating a strong and vibrant new Erasmus programme. Rest assured that the Commission will be an honest broker in this process.

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