The Dutch humanist Erasmus of Rotterdam is not well known although he is the eponym of the best-known exchange programme in Europe: Erasmus! Since the start of the exchange programme in 1987, more than three million young people have become part of this success project and have travelled abroad. The Erasmus programme is the European Union's way of passing on the European idea.
Investing in the European idea living on
"Young people who have grown up in a united Europe should become as enthusiastic as possible about Europe. Nearly everyone who has done it says that their experience with Erasmus has encouraged them to be more open-minded and open to different countries and cultures," says our MEP Milan Zver, Member of the European Parliament’s Committee on Culture and Education.
It is of paramount importance that young people not only read about Europe but experience it! Milan Zver
Since 2014, Erasmus isn't a programme for students and trainees only anymore. With the expansion of the umbrella programme from Erasmus to Erasmus Plus, all projects now fall under one roof: Erasmus+ is the EU's programme for supporting education, training, youth and sport in Europe. Its budget of €14.7 billion will provide opportunities for over 4 million Europeans to study, train, gain experience and volunteer abroad until 2020.
Although Erasmus was a successful and well-known project among students, the expanded Erasmus+ reached only 1% of all young people during the first two and a half years of its existence.
"This is not enough. The programme is for sure the best investment in young people and the European future. Therefore, it is of paramount importance that young people not only read about Europe but experience it! If we want Erasmus+ to remain, we have to improve the quality and the visibility of the programme," emphasises Zver, who is the lead negotiator (Rapporteur) on the Parliament's Implementation report on Erasmus+.
The conclusions and recommendations of Parliament's report should feed into the programme's mid-term evaluation report to be submitted by the European Commission at the end of 2017.
Bringing Europeans closer together
Erasmus not only widens horizons but it also brings people from different countries closer together.
Here is another fact: every fourth Erasmus student has also found love in their semester abroad, whereas in general only every eighth partnership is bi-national. A real open-minded "Erasmus generation" has been born with, as a result, more than one million Erasmus babies.
What’s more, these young people benefit in many other ways later on in life: they have better language skills, they work better with people from other cultures and they accept challenges more quickly.
We live in historical times. It is important that we don't stop believing in Europe, like Erasmus of Rotterdam.
Europe's future is at a crossroads - like it was in Erasmus of Rotterdam's lifetime. But although Erasmus of Rotterdam recognised the risk of its fragmentation, he never stopped believing in Europe. He was a real European in a spiritual sense, which is one of the main reasons the exchange programme is named after him.
"We live in historical times. It is important that we don't stop believing in Europe, like Erasmus of Rotterdam. That is why we have to highlight European flagship programmes like Erasmus. It is one of the EU projects that embodies all the benefits of the EU. Therefore let us spread the positive news and celebrate the 30th birthday of Erasmus: Happy Birthday!"