Tibor Navracsics, EU-Kommissar für Bildung, Kultur, Jugend und Sport

The ERASMUS programme is probably the EU’s biggest success story. What started off as a mobility scheme for around 3,000 higher education students in 1987 has now evolved into a wealth of opportunities for four million learners and staff in the fields of education, training, youth and sport for the period 2014 to 2020, bringing together people from all parts of the continent and beyond.

Tibor Navracsics ist Kommissar für Bildung, Kultur, Jugend und Sport in der Europäischen Kommission. Vorher war er Vizepremier und Außenminister von Ungarn.

As we celebrate the 30th anniversary of ERASMUS in 2017, we celebrate something that all the people who have experienced this programme have in common: ERASMUS has changed their lives. It has helped to create a generation of people with a strong European identity.

Europe is a very different place today than it was thirty years ago. The first exchanges took place in a continent that was divided – split by a physical and ideological wall. The ERASMUS generation, embarking on adventures in different countries, discovering new cultures, new friends, fresh ways of learning as well as another side to themselves, demonstrated clearly that because of the bridges we build between our countries through our people, Europe is one.

Thirty years later, the wall is down. But new challenges such as violent extremism, economic stagnation and migration are threatening to create fresh divisions. Again, we have to stand up for the values we share – the values of freedom, democracy, human dignity and mutual respect. Education, both inside and outside the classroom, is crucial in promoting these values, as well as in equipping young people with the skills they need to find their place in society. And ERASMUS is key to this. Beyond benefitting individuals, it is an engine of social progress. By promoting openness and dialogue, it drives cooperation and innovation in education institutions and the youth sector, helping to boost economic growth and social cohesion.

ERASMUS is as vital for Europe now as it was 30 years ago – if not even more so. A European generation of open-minded, engaged young people who understand and accept both each other and the values the European Union is founded on: that is exactly what we need to build the societies of tomorrow. 2017 is a year to celebrate ERASMUS and the powerful impact it continues to have on all of us. And it is a moment to thank the coordinators, programme managers, teachers, youth workers, and national policy makers across Europe whose constant support and enthusiasm has made it all possible.

I am extremely grateful to the German Academic Exchange Service for its tireless dedication to making ERASMUS a success, from the beginning and throughout the past 30 years. We can be proud of what we have achieved so far. But we can do a lot more. The political divide that was in place in Europe when ERASMUS started prevented me from experiencing the programme myself.

That is why I am all the more committed to make it broadly available for everyone, regardless of people’s social, political or cultural backgrounds. I believe that the 30th anniversary of ERASMUS can provide a strong impetus to strengthen the programme in this sense. Let us take this chance.