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On 11 May, the European Commission’s streamlined and integrated approach outlined in its Erasmus for All proposal survived its first major battle after the Council agreed on a partial general approach, which leaves the new programme’s structure largely intact. The hard-fought consensus of all member states resulted in a Presidency compromise text, which represents a political mandate for the forthcoming, Cypriot, Presidency to begin informal negotiations with the European Parliament, with the aim of reaching overall agreement on the proposal by early 2013.
The Council negotiations, which began in early 2012 have, nevertheless, produced a number of changes to the original Commission regulation. Most notable among these are a separate chapter for youth with its own budget stream, the re-instatement of funding for all six academic institutions active in the field of European integration studies, removal of the Master Loan Guarantee facility from the text, a special provision to ensure access for people with special needs or fewer opportunities, an explicit reference to European values, and more flexibility in rules regarding the National Agencies. Furthermore, minimum allocations for learning mobility funds have been established separately for the education and training sectors, in order to minimise imbalances between member states that occur as a result of geography and varied levels in the cost of living.
Excluded from the negotiations were all matters related to the overall budget, as the Multiannual Financial Framework negotiations are still ongoing. Once concluded, their outcome will indicate whether the Commission’s proposed funding increase of EUR 19 billion is achievable in the current fiscal climate. If any insight into the future financial priorities of the EU can be gained from the increased rhetoric about the crucial role of education in recovery from the crisis as well as the recent approval of the 2013 draft budget, then the 15.8% increase for lifelong learning might be a sign of good fortune for Erasmus for All.