Established in 1987, Erasmus is by far the most successful student exchange programme in the world. Over 3 million people have seen a new culture, experienced a new university and broadened their experiences, their minds and their horizons in the past 25 years.
Erasmus is also branching out and initiating new projects, which have proven very successful and have a huge potential.
Erasmus Mundus is a programme allowing students to study at universities across the world, as well as encouraging bright international pupils to study in our continent, with the ultimate goal of making Europe a major centre of learning.
Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs offers internships in businesses, allowing exchange of knowledge and experience.
Other new Erasmus programmes offer teaching and training for university staff, funding for co-operation projects for educational establishments, and exchange opportunities for younger (school students), as well as for mature people of all backgrounds and educational qualifications.
"Erasmus has created the first generation of young Europeans" Umberto Eco
“EU runs out of funding for Erasmus grants” - the shocking headlines spread like wild-fire across European media: from the pan-European Presseurop.eu, through the Spanish lavanguardia.com, the French courrier international and even the Times of Malta .
The Erasmus scheme is funded mostly from EU funds, with smaller contributions from national governments. However, put simply, in order for the EU to have sufficient funds, the seven net-contributors to the EU (Austria, Britain, France, Germany, Finland, the Netherlands and Sweden) need to increase expenditure in the 2013 budget by 6.8%, which they have so far refused to do.
The only other option is for the European Council and the European Parliament to amend the budget. This has so far not happened, and as a result Erasmus is under a very real threat.
This would affect the Erasmus students for the 2012/13 academic year.
In addition on November 23-d, 2012 a summit will be held to negotiate the 2013-2018 budget, which will decide the destiny of Erasmus for the next 5 years. It is expected that a lot of figures will be lowered in the next budget.
The news on the threat to Erasmus spread across the forums, social networks, and daily conversations of young Europeans instantly.
The Pro-European community, supported by the larger civil society, acted decisively. A number of groups, petitions and networks were immediately set-up and are rapidly growing:
The page was created on Friday (05/10/12), it received 200 members in the first 12 hours, 1000 in less than three days, and at the time of publishing of this article (15/10/12) has over 4,000 members."Let's get together and make our politicians understand what Erasmus represents for the youth all over Europe!"
AEGEE created a petition under the name: "Europe: do not gamble with the future of the Erasmus programme"
During the weekend (13 & 14 of Oct.) the petition received over 1,500 signatures, and it currently (15 of Oct.) has 1,911 signatories. The aim is to collect 10,000 which at the current rate will clearly happen quite soon."...we demand that the European Commission and the bodies responsible for the funding issue a clear message confirming that the grants for the Erasmus programme are guaranteed not only for the whole 2012/2013 academic year, but for the upcoming years as well."
Save Erasmus Project - a Facebook group was created by a 100 former Erasmus students. After studying in Stuttgart 10 years ago, they continue to meet every year in a different European city (getting at 25-30 people at every meeting). When this group of friends heard the news on the danger to Erasmus, the decided to take action to protect the programme, which has given them such a great experience, as well as lasting friendships.
"This is a spontaneous group, which asks the European Parliament to save the Erasmus project. The group is public and open, and everyone can join it and share experiences and opinions about Erasmus and the European situation."
This group currently has 2,239 members, as well as active discussions between hundreds of Europeans from across the continent.
366 people registered to walk from the Warsaw Square to the Human Rights Square (Trocadero) in Brussels, in order to show their commitment to the Erasmus program.
Thousands of young Europeans have ensured #SaveErasmus is trending on twitter.
All this spontaneous activity reveals just how important the Erasmus programme is to the young Europeans. The experiences, friendships and opportunities it creates are countless, and the service it provides to Europe in bringing all of us closer together is completely immeasurable.
Hopefully our leaders will understand this, before it is too late.