BRUSSELS – Students have been given a new hope that the uncertainty arising from the EU’s budget negotiations on education and youth may soon be eradicated. A new agreement might take care of the 126 million euros that are needed for the Lifelong learning and Erasmus programmes this year.
“We are running out on time and we have received way too many mixed signals about how much money might be invested in education and youth this year and from 2014 to 2020. It soon became clear after a deal had been struck between the European Parliament and Council in December that there would nevertheless be a serious shortfall in the budget this year. The solution offered to students there was obviously only temporary. What we need is a long term assurance from the EU,” says Karina Ufert, Chairperson of the European Students’ Union.
If no immediate solution is found and communicated, higher education institutions might react by reducing the number of places offered by the programmes or the level of grants in the academic year 2013/14. This would have negative consequences on the social dimension of higher education, as disadvantaged social groups would have less chance of participating in the exchange schemes.
The multiannual financial framework
The EU Member States sent out a promising message at the EU‘s General Affairs Council this week where they said that obligations in 2013 must be honoured, giving incentive for a rapid adoption of an amended budget proposal. An important initiative was also taken to break the deadlock in relation to the budget negotiations for the multiannual financial framework from 2014 to 2020, by possibly introducing extra flexibility, a mid-term review and a revision of the EU‘s income base.
The EU plans to introduce a new programme in 2014 called Erasmus for all, integrating all the previous programmes for education and youth. It has been discussed widely since it was first introduced in 2011, but the suggested budget has been cut by 15 per cent from the original proposal because of the demand put forth by the European Council in February. Now it is believed it will be 13 billion euros instead of 15.2 billion (not taking the international dimension into account). An agreement on the details for sectoral policies such as education might only become clear by the end of this year.
“We were happy with the statements issued by EU Budget Commissioner Janusz Lewandowski this week that gave us hope for the future. We think it is of utmost importance to deal swiftly with all the formalities needed for the budget for this year. The EU has to stand up to its financial obligations. It is simply not a convincing working method to present a plan without expecting it to be fulfilled. We need a rapid decision making process and reliable funds for the long term. When the amended budget for this year has been adopted, we can fully focus on the big project that is waiting and will affects millions of students in Europe,” emphasises Ufert.
Students call for transparent and open negotiations
ESU urges the European Parliament and the European Council to take the demands and requests of current and future students into account. Both these institutions have stressed how important it is to shield investments in education and youth from the proposed austerity measures. In case a new multiannual financial framework will not be adopted in time, the ceilings and other provisions corresponding to 2013 will be extended.
“The negotiations need to be transparent and open so that young people can get an insight into the policies and opinions of EU Member States and European political parties on issues that are among their main interests before the European elections in 2014,” says Ufert.
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The European Students’ Union, headquartered in Brussels, is the umbrella organisation of 47 national unions of students from 39 European countries. ESU represents and promotes the educational, social, economical and cultural interests of students at the European level. Through its member unions, ESU represents over 11 million students in Europe. To find out more about ESU, follow us on Twitter @ESUtwt, check out or Facebook page or visit www.esu-online.org. ESU celebrates its 30th anniversary in 2012.