Erasmus+, support to youth mobility ” “

Renewed thrust and funding to education abroad by the EU

Since its launch in the year 1987 nearly 3 million young Europeans have benefited from the EU exchange programme Erasmus. Yet, the scarcity of financial resources led in the past few months to debates concerning the future of this programme and inspired several initiatives aiming at its continuation. These ultimately proved to be successful as both the European Parliament as well as the Council gave their approval – at the end of November and the beginning of December 2013 repectively – to a reform of the EU mobility programme that will increase its budget for the next seven years by 40% as well as extending its scope.The new programme Erasmus+ started on 1 January 2014. It brought together under the same roof the existing education and training programmes (Comenius, Erasmus, Erasmus Mundus, Leonardo da Vinci, Grundtvig, Lifelong Learning and Youth in Action), which should facilitate access and application modalities.Besides supporting temporary study stays abroad, which forms the main focus of the programme, Erasmus+ also aims at promoting vocational training as well as traineeships and volunteering. Furthermore, through “Knowledge and Sector Skills Alliances” partnerships between education institutions and private enterprises will be established in order to get young people in touch with the real working environment. Also teachers, trainers and youth workers will have the opportunity to train or teach abroad.For the first time a certain part of the budget is also allocated to the support of cross-border projects in the sports sector. Another new feature is the introduction of a loan-guarantee scheme that should help Master’s students to finance a full degree abroad. According to the European Commission, in the years 2014-2020 the new programme will reach altogether more than 4 million young people aged 13 to 30.Why should mobility programmes be supported?The willingness of the EU to invest almost 15 billion euros in youth education despite the overall decrease of the EU budget is, according to the legislative proposal of the European Commission, basically to be seen in the context of Europe 2020, the ten-year growth strategy.Erasmus+ has been proclaimed especially as a measure to tackle youth unemployment which today affects nearly 6 million young people, and to increase Europe´s competitiveness. Moreover, the programme should also help to address the gap between skills supply and demand.Besides these economic and growth-oriented aspects, the social and human side of mobility programmes should, however, not be forgotten either. As the MEP Anna Záborská emphasised, programmes like Erasmus “enable a whole generation of young people to learn about Europe at close range, to develop a relationship to it and to perceive what unites Europe”.Mobility programmes offer young people a genuine contact with other cultures. They make direct networking between young Europeans possible and thus contribute to overcoming prejudices. By encouraging transborder thinking and acting, such programmes also have the potential to strengthen active EU citizenship as well as European integration as such.The Church sees another important role for exchange programmes in the personal development and enrichment of the individual. Young people are “more than only brains to be filled with modern science”, emphasises in this respect Rev. Can. Charles de Hemptinnes in his report on the situation of foreign students in the world.Support for programmes that aim at increasing the mobility of young people, such as Erasmus+, is certainly welcome. Concerning their realisation it is, however, necessary not only to focus on economic motives but also to keep in mind the cultural, social and human dimension so that they may help young people to develop a real sense of responsibility for their own future, their family, their home country and not least for Europe.

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