Schinas: Erasmus generation has a duty to defend Europe

File photo of Margaritis Schinas, European Commissioner for Promoting the European Way of Life [EPA-EFE/JOSE COELHO]

European Commission Vice-President Margaritis Schinas has said that “the time has come” for the Erasmus generation to help Europe defend itself from the enemies who would have us believe that the European Union has no future.

“The Erasmus generation has a duty to defend Europe at this time. Now is the time for the Erasmus generation to do for Europe what Europe did for the Erasmus generation. This is the time for the young people of the Erasmus generation to become the best ambassadors of Europe, because after all, Europe is you,” he told an audience of more than 150 young volunteers from various countries during the presentation of the new Erasmus+ in Viana do Castelo on Friday (18 June).

“The EU is still under attack from many forces outside our borders, who do not want to see the success of the union,” he said.

But, he said, the EU “is also attacked by forces on the popular fringes” of European societies themselves, “by many Eurosceptics and Europhobic elements who want to make people believe that the European Union is not capable, especially at a time when Europe has taken unprecedented steps.”

Schinas pointed to examples of these steps: “the largest vaccination programme ever carried out in the history of mankind, against COVID-19, and the recovery plan for the economic crisis caused by the pandemic.”

“These enemies of Europe want to prove that Europe cannot do it, exactly at the moment when Europe is showing the opposite,” he said.

Margaritis Schinas called the new Erasmus+ programme the most emblematic and enriching in Europe.

In almost 35 years, he said, the Erasmus programme has “provided new life experiences to 10 million young Europeans,” who have “generated a million European babies,” which, he quipped, “is not bad to start with.”

The European Commission vice-president stressed that the new Erasmus+ programme “wants to double that number of beneficiaries in the next seven years, reaching 20 million young Europeans.”

“From 2027 our only goal is that the Erasmus programme is not an option, but a fundamental right of all Europeans. That everyone who wishes to have an Erasmus experience has the possibility to live it,” he said.

Margaritis Schinas highlighted that for the next seven years, the new Erasmus+ has a budget of €26 billion, almost double the edition that ran from 2014 to 2020, where it was funded with €14.7 billion.

“This new strengthened Erasmus+ will be key to supporting our model of society and our way of life,” he noted.

European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, Mariya Gabriel, meanwhile, stressed that the new EU programme is “more inclusive, greener and digital” and announced the launch of a European Innovation and Education Prize in the autumn.

“This award will give visibility to the best Erasmus projects in Europe, promoting success, innovation and innovative learning practices,” she said.

The European launch of the new Erasmus+ programme in Viana do Castelo was also attended by Portugal’s Ministers of Science, Technology and Higher Education, Manuel Heitor, of Education, Tiago Brandão Rodrigues, and of Labour, Solidarity and Social Security, Ana Mendes Godinho.

First launched in 1987, the Erasmus programme became Erasmus+ in 2014 in order to cover new areas such as vocational training, adult education or youth exchanges, youth workers and sports coaches.

As well as offering opportunities for study or work placements abroad, the programme also invests in cross-border cooperation projects, notably between universities, educational establishments or youth and sports organisations.

[Edited by Josie Le Blond]

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