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As reported earlier in this newsletter (see ACA Newsletter – Education Europe, November 2012 and October 2012), a funding deficit of some EUR 180 million in the European Union (EU) budget for 2012 threatened the full implementation of the Lifelong Learning Programme, and thus also of the Erasmus scheme. The problem, which was wider and also affected spending in other EU policy areas, was created when the EU member states refused to top up this year’s budget by the EUR 9 billion demanded by the European Commission and the European Parliament. Parliament ‘retaliated’ by refusing to adopt the 2013 budget. The deadlock on both budgets was broken when the member states and the Parliament reached a compromise over the 2012 top-up (EUR 6 billion), which in turn paved the way for an agreement on the 2013 budget.
All of this is not to be confused with the medium-term financial framework of the European Union for the period from 2014 to 2020, over which controversy still reigns. The Commission’s proposal for this period foresees an increase of funds for the Lifelong Learning Programme of about two thirds compared to the present 7-year period. An extraordinary European Council meeting in November devoted entirely to the medium-term finances of the EU had ended without an agreement. The heads of states and governments of EU member countries will therefore convene again in January, to have another go.
Referring to the agreement over the 2012 and 2013 budgets, Androulla Vassiliou, the Commissioner for Education and Culture, expressed delight. She said “I am very happy that the Member States and the parliamentarians reached an agreement which is a big boost for Erasmus students and other beneficiaries of our programmes. It is a positive signal that Europe is committed to investing in people and skills.”