There was an important development this week in the European Parliament. An agreement on a new proposal for education was passed by the Culture and Education (CULT) Committee after negotiations between the European Parliament and Council.
The new €14 billion Erasmus+ education programme for 2014-2020 will enable over 5 million young people to go to other countries to study, train and join in voluntary activities including sport. In future, it will fund scholarships for non-university students, and back loan guarantees schemes for master’s degree ones. It should also ensure that grants are paid faster.
It is a more streamlined grouping of hitherto separate programmes, which nonetheless retains the characteristics of each. The parliament have obtained many very useful results in the negotiations and I hope that this programme will be as successful as in the past.
Erasmus+ aims to help young people of 13 to 30 years old to get mobile in order to learn, study and acquire professional skills and aptitudes in a country other than their country of origin. In the field of education, training and youth, it will bring together Comenius, Erasmus, Erasmus Mundus, Leonardo da Vinci (vocational training), Grundtvig and Youth in Action. It also introduces sport, for the first time in a European programme. The existing brand names will be kept, as they are well known to the public.
Erasmus+ funding will also be available for cross-border mobility of young people and volunteers in the field of sport, and in particular for activities that help to combat violence, discrimination or doping. Non-profit sporting events that involve several countries could also get EU funding.
One of the most exciting developments in the new proposal is that, through Erasmus+, the EU will guarantee loans of up to €12,000 (for one year) or €18,000 (for two years) to students who wish to pursue Masters degree in another country. This new system will not replace grant or loan systems that already exist in member states, but will be on top of all existing systems.
The text says that grants should reflect the cost of living in the host country and that member states should exempt them from any taxes or social levies. Unified management of the programme would also help to speed up the payment of grants to beneficiaries.
I want to congratulate my colleagues who worked so hard on negotiating this agreement and getting it through the Committee. In particular Doris Pack, who is the chair of the CULT committee and rapporteur, and Katarína Neveďalová, my S&D colleague who worked closely with Doris. The proposal is brilliant and I expect it to be passed by the entire parliament very soon.