Budget deal 'averts funding crisis for Erasmus'
A deal on the 2013 budget, voted by the European Parliament yesterday (12 December), plugs a hole in the EU's finances for 2012 and removes uncertainty about funding for the Erasmus student exchange programme next year, the European Commission said.
Androulla Vassiliou, European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth, said the deal was "a big boost for Erasmus students" and sends "a positive signal that Europe is committed to investing in education and skills."
The agreement, formally rubber-stamped by the European Parliament after member states approved it last week, wipes out a €180 million shortfall in the 2012 budget for the Lifelong Learning Programme, the Commission said in a statement.
Out of this total, the shortage affecting Erasmus amounted to around €90 million.
"The agreement means that the Commission can now transfer necessary funds to the national agencies which are responsible for running Erasmus in the member states. The agencies will then release funds to beneficiaries of the programme, including the home universities and colleges which pay the monthly grants to students," the Commission explained.
"Everything that should have been paid in 2012 will be paid in 2012," added Dennis Abbott, Vassiliou's spokesman.
The overall shortfall on the 2012 EU budget was estimated at €9 billion in total. Yesterday's budget deal provides a top-up of €6 billion, with the remaining €2.9 billion to be paid in 2013.
But further budget shortfalls for Erasmus students are to be expected next year, the Commission warned, as the 2013 budget deal is €5 billion below the Commission's proposal.
"The Commission fears that the EU will face another budget shortfall next autumn," Abbott said.
In the EU budget for 2012, coffers ran empty for programmes that include priority areas such as education, youth and research.
The Commission said it was not surprised by these developments. The proposed 2012 budget was of €132.7 billion, but the one that was eventually adopted was €129.1 billion.