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The Parliament sinks its teeth into Erasmus for All (or shall we say Lifelong Learning Programme II?)

Following the Council’s adoption of a partial general approach for the Commission-proposed Erasmus for All in May, it was now the European Parliament’s turn to take a closer look and stamp its own vision on the new programme. Under the leadership of MEP Doris Pack (rapporteur), the long-time Chair of the Committee on Culture and Education (CULT), the Parliament issued its first version of the Draft Report at the end of July. Although still to be ratified by the plenary in November, the amended proposal lays the groundwork for future negotiations with the Council and has already attracted plenty of attention.

In general terms, members of the CULT committee agree with the new streamlined structure organised along three key actions of mobility, cooperation and support for policy reform. More critique is reserved for the vagueness of the legal base especially when it comes to specific information on activities across sectors for all three key actions. In the same vein, the Parliament would like to increase the minimum allocations per sector to 82%, rather than the 56% proposed by the Commission in order to guarantee more parity in funding across the different levels of education.

The first major issue taken up by the rapporteur is the name. Although Erasmus for All as a brand has been hotly debated in the Council with many alternatives thrown around, very few member states felt strongly about retaining the current Lifelong Learning Programme tag. However, this is exactly what the Parliament would like to do, although its claim that the name is “well-known” is up for discussion when one steps outside the education community. On the other hand, the report’s second proposal to keep the current sectoral names is likely to find more support. Equally similar to the Council’s approach are the suggestions for a separate chapter and budget line for youth, as well as the inclusion of a provision guaranteeing funding for all six academic institutions active in the field of European integration. The Parliament would also like to preserve a flexible approach to allow more than one National Agency in cases where national structures already have a multi-institution landscape.

When it comes to higher education, the report does feature one oddity or a failed attempt to accommodate a frequent call from organisations active in internationalisation of higher education. In the Explanatory Statement the rapporteur mentions the idea of introducing multiple mobility within Erasmus (higher education) reasoning that “it should be possible to study at least at two universities and in different academic years”. However, this suggestion is nowhere to be found in the preceding proposed amendments to the legal base thus effectively ‘explaining’ a non-existent clause.

The matter of the overall budget still remains in the air due to the Multiannual Financial Framework negotiations, but the Parliament would like to see funding for the new programme increased to the level proposed by the Commission. To seasoned EU observers, this is somewhat surprising as it is out of line with the usual ‘cat and mouse’ game between the Parliament and Council, where the Parliament normally proposes an even higher increase knowing that the Council will decrease the funding level anyway. At this moment, the previously set timeline for Erasmus for All (or the Lifelong Learning Programme II?) remains in place, as both sides hope a final version of the legal base can be agreed upon in early 2013. As with the budget and the name, we will just have to wait and see…

European Parliament