When discussing the EU, we often find ourselves in a sceptical environment, defending and explaining issues. In this sense then the Erasmus+ programme is a rare bird. It may be one of the very few EU ideas that everyone, regardless of political colour, speaks positively about. When looking at the figures it is not difficult to understand why. Since the inauguration of the programme in 1987 more than two million students have studied abroad. Thousands and thousands of teachers have seen how their colleagues work. Mobility is no longer just a term, it is how Europeans live and learn.
In this regard, it was indeed a pleasure to work with this excellent reform and notice the political support from all sides to strengthen the reach of the programme. Of course we had our differences along the way. There were some disagreements about the name and the architecture of the programme. But in the end, the European parliament, commission and council managed to land a very positive result. The most important step was the 40 per cent budget increase. This increase shows that the EU is fully committed to supporting and strengthening education and training, even in times of austerity. This significant boost will mean that around four million students, staff, teachers and trainers can go abroad and study over the next seven years.
"In a globalising world, more and more enterprises are looking for employees with international experience in terms of both knowledge of languages and cultures"
Why is this important? Because we need to equip students all over Europe with the right tools to prepare them for the job market. In a globalising world, more and more enterprises are looking for employees with international experience in terms of both knowledge of languages and cultures. Student mobility can thus help to ensure that Europe has the graduate skills it needs to stimulate growth and improve its competitive position. However, we should not rest on our laurels. It is an important task to ensure that students actually get formal qualifications when they go abroad. We should not only look at quantity, but also at quality in order to improve the programme. This will be a task that the new parliament must take on board.
Another important aspect of the Erasmus+ programme is, of course, the inclusion of sport. The objective of fighting threats to sport such as match-fixing and doping are important and it is timely that more resources are being earmarked for this. Especially match fixing, which has shown to be a much bigger problem than first thought and we need a European cross-border approach to deal with this serious problem. It is also important to note that the inclusion of sport in EU-legislation is an important recognition of the political dimension of sport. This has often been contested, but finally we are seeing a broad recognition of sport and politics being two sides of the same coin. And it is about time too. One only needs to look at the controversies and scandals surrounding the planned football World Cup in Qatar in 2022, where corruption and outrageous working conditions for guest workers have totally overshadowed the event.
So all in all, we have a very strong basis to support mobility for people of all ages in Europe in the next seven year period. But we still need to ensure that the quality of the programme is kept at a high-level and that all users obtain the qualifications they need. I am confident that the new parliament will be up to the task.