Stability in Europe? Education is the key.

To evaluate year 2012, it has been an year full of discussions about Erasmus Exchange program; the program which is one of the most widely known in the world. We celebrated the 25th anniversary of Erasmus program in Europe. More than 2,5 millions of young people have had an opportunity to travel abroad through Erasmus. Such an experience have changed their lives, they have become more open-minded, flexible and modern Europeans.

At the moment, the budget restriction for years 2007-2013 and the European Commission is preparing new proposal for years 2014 – 2020. One of proposals which have been discussed for last couple of months is called “Erasmus for all”. The European Commission is focused on entire re-formation of all current educational programs structure, without reference to specific group of people. It should unite all educational programs such as Erasmus, Leonardo, Grundtvig; together with non-formal education such as Youth in Action and European Voluntary Service.

Increase of Erasmus in 66% from the total of 19 mil budget would allow many more students to travel abroad. The question is: Are universities ready for this? Then the proposal comes with new idea of supporting sport and granting loans, which could help students to finance their master studies. Additionally, education pacts and Erasmus Charter will be revised and strengthening of programs such as Erasmus and European Voluntary Service are the main priority for the European Commission.

However, the Council for Education in the European Parliament has different opinion on the new proposal. One of them is inadequate name of the new proposal. For them, it would be more appropriate to name the proposal “YES Europe”, by means of “Youth, Education and Sport Europe.” There is also disagreement about integration of formal and non-formal education. The reason for this is that the European Committee is focusing too much on university studies. On the other side, the European Committee claims that Erasmus is “a flagship” of education in EU. In September 2012, Martin Schulz, the president of the European Parliament came to visit Slovakia. During civil forum I asked him about his opinion on the new proposal “Erasmus for all”. His reaction was clear and as a politician without university degree, he disagrees with limitation of the program on educational motilities and that it is not fair to concentrate only on university students.

As it has already been caught in media, present financing of the Erasmus program is in crisis. The Fair Play Alliance announced, that one of the most successful and popular student exchange program in the world, Erasmus, is in financial ruin for years 2013/2014. It was also confirmed by Alain Lamassoure, who sits on the European Parliament’s Committee on Budgets: “I can reassure that students who will travel abroad for mobility though Erasmus program do not have to be worried and have any doubts. I believe that the European Commission with proposal on amendment to budget for year 2013. It is notoriety as the end of budget period for years 2007-2013 is coming to its end. I assume that member states involved into European space of higher education will participate in coverage of additional budget by proportional contributions towards Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

I believe that Erasmus program and education in EU are priorities for the European Commission, European Parliament and Council of Europian Union. This year we celebrated at first, then we were working on the new proposal and at last, we complained about the lack of money. Despite of crisis times and confidence loss among countries, I am certain of Erasmus being the key to better future of Europe. Erasmus has built new society which is not supposed to fight for freedom, as it had been fought for by generations before us. Our generation will fight for stability in Europe.

Miroslav Hajnoš