July 30, 2020

The new MFF and its consequences

After five intense days of negotiations, the EU leaders have agreed on the recovery package, and the new long-term budget of the EU, to address the current critical situation in Europe. The leaders of the EU Member States found an agreement for both the Next Generation EU and the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) 2021-27.

Although this is a positive development, the agreed budgets are significantly lower than what the European Commission initially proposed back at the beginning of the MFF negotiations in 2018 and the decisions made are predicted to have major consequences for key EU programmes, some of which are at the heart of the  current European Commission’s priorities. One of these programmes is Erasmus+, which has successfully enhanced the European multiculturalism through education and was expected to receive a bigger budget in order to ensure that the new programme is more inclusive, accessible and sustainable. The European Commission has announced ambitious plans for the new Erasmus+ programme by introducing major new initiatives, such as the European Universities Initiative, the Vocational Education Excellence Centers, DiscoverEU and many others. Next to the new initiatives, several other promises have been made to improve the elements of the current Erasmus+ and the traditional initiatives that are part of the programme since its inception. The current agreement leaves doubts whether there will be enough funding to tackle all of the above.

In the field of Higher Education it is evident that the Erasmus+ programme needs to be adapted in order to provide fair and equal opportunities for all students, regardless of their socio-economic background. #Erasmus500 goes towards this direction and argues that a grant of 500€ per month would offer a realistic possibility to allow a much larger number of students to participate and aims to address key issues such as inclusiveness, simplicity and support. A universal baseline of at least 500€ per month for every Erasmus and allowing for additional top-ups for underrepresented groups can be a way of progression and development for the new phase of the Erasmus+ programme, and a step towards more feasible and accessible education opportunities. 

The programme will continue to remain realistically inaccessible to students if we stand by the Council’s agreement and do not invest on a more qualitative programme. 

The hopes of young people are now turned to the European Parliament, who has the last word on this ongoing debate.  

Kostis Giannidis, ESN