The European Commission has called for a €5.4billion decrease in funding for the Erasmus+ program as part of its proposal for a major recovery plan in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The proposed budget for Erasmus+ is €24.6bn, a figure which is significantly less than the €30bn that the European Commission put forward in 2018.
“With Next Generation EU we are providing an ambitious answer”
It is, however, more than the amount discussed by the European Council in February 2020 (€21.2bn).
In a statement, the Commission said that the budget is intended to protect lives and livelihoods, repair the Single Market, as well as to build a lasting and prosperous recovery to Covid-19.
“The recovery plan turns the immense challenge we face into an opportunity, not only by supporting the recovery but also by investing in our future,” said European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen.
“The European Green Deal and digitalisation will boost jobs and growth, the resilience of our societies and the health of our environment. This is Europe’s moment.
“Our willingness to act must live up to the challenges we are all facing. With Next Generation EU we are providing an ambitious answer.”
However, both the EU’s Parliamentary Committee on Culture and Education (CULT) and the Erasmus Student Network have criticised the proposed cuts, with the former saying that they are “bad news for young people”.
CULT committee chair Sabine Verheyen, Erasmus+ rapporteur Milan Zver, Creative Europe rapporteur, Massimilano Smeriglio and European Solidarity Corps rapporteur, Michaela Šojdrová said that proposals are not in line with von der Leyen’s comments on the importance of supporting future generations.
“What the Commission describes as ‘additional’ money for Erasmus+ and an increase for Creative Europe is only more money compared to the unacceptable baseline of the February proposal by Council president Charles Michel,” they said in a statement.
They explained that the figures are far below the Commission’s original proposal for the 2021-2027 budget.
“Since when does the Commission call decreases increases? Back in July 2019, when Commission president von der Leyen addressed the parliament’s plenary, she promised to back our call for tripling the Erasmus+ budget.
“What has happened? It is very unfortunate that the Commission is proposing lower numbers compared to its original proposal two years ago. Since then, the von der Leyen Commission has created expectations that are not met by the proposal which is now on the table,” the statement continued.
“Let’s face it, the Erasmus+ program is one of the most important initiatives that the European Union created and so far it has impacted millions of young people,” said president of the Erasmus Student Network, Kostis Giannidis.
“Europe has faced a lot of crises in the past years when it comes to radicalisation, young people didn’t have so many opportunities, there were big rates of unemployment.
“We believe that Erasmus+ can deal with these kinds of issues because if young people travel abroad, with other peers from different cultures it opens their minds, and it is basically a solution for a making a more cohesive Europe.”
There are still a number of stages before the exact funding figure is confirmed. An agreement will have to be reached with the European Council in July if the proposals are to be implemented in January 2021 as planned.
“More investment needs to be placed on Erasmus+. We understand that coronavirus has had a huge impact and that maybe the priority has to be in other places but also young people deserve more opportunities,” Giannidis added.