European students want to “Help Erasmus”
Brussels (30/09/2013) – More than 50 students from 28 European states have launched a petition to promote the EU student exchange programme ERASMUS. The initiative called “Help Erasmus” focuses on a fictional Erasmus of Rotterdam, the 16th century Dutch philosopher and patron of the programme. On their homepage they display Erasmus as a bored student who decides to participate in the exchange programme. Soon afterwards he eats paella in Spain, drinks beer in Prague, and goes jet skiing in Greece. With only one month to go it is still missing over thirty thousand signatures to reach one hundred thousand supporters – the organizers self-proclaimed goal.
“Help Erasmus”, which was originally founded as “Fraternité 2020” in May last year, has so far collected over sixty thousand signatures for more Erasmus. Even though the EU has just decided that ERASMUS should receive an additional 37% in the next EU budget, organizers argue that funds are still not enough to give everyone who wants to go abroad a chance to do so. “Studies show that every year thousands of youngsters cannot go abroad only for the lack of money”, explains Markus Gassinger, who is part of the organizing team for Austria. “Also the new budget is not going to fundamentally change that.”
But with Europe in crisis and a sluggish economy isn’t that only wishful thinking? Luca Copetti, member from Belgium with Italian roots, fervently disagrees: “it is not like people on ERASMUS only drink alcohol and go to parties. Of course, we play with that stereotype a little in our campaign. But in the end going abroad is about asserting oneself in a new environment and picking up a new language. ERASMUS is an investment into our future; not a drain on our budgets!”
The initiative has collected forty of its sixty thousand signatures in December last year. Then the EU was running out of ERASMUS funds altogether and stopped paying out promised grants. “Suddenly students all over Europe realized what was at stake here”, explains Irina Popescu from Romania. But with the EU sorting out its problems and things reverting back to normal, students have lost the impetus to sign. According to Irina this is the problem: “Students don’t realize what kind of power they have. If they would stick together and demand sufficient ERASMUS grants for e-v-e-r-y-o-n-e who wants to go abroad, what else could Europe’s leaders do but deliver?”
With only one month remaining to collect signatures organizers have completely reworked their homepage over the summer and abandoned their name. “We originally called ourselves ‘Fraternité 2020’ in reference to the ‘Europe 2020’ strategy, which in our opinion lacks a social dimension. But nobody got this connection. Instead they thought we were a religious association, which made collecting signatures not easier”, explains Simona Pronckute from Lithuania.
A short time ago the organizers have created a Facebook event to regain their momentum. Even though almost thirty thousand people have been invited in only one week and the word is starting to spread on social media, nothing short of a miracle will be necessary to reach their target of one hundred thousands signatures. “We will fight until the last day”, insists Simona. “The problem is that we cannot reach students in sufficient numbers. We don’t have the means. This is why we hope that newspapers will pick this story up.”
Erasmus of Rotterdam once wrote: “there are some people who live in a dream world, and there are some who face reality; and then there are those who turn one into the other.” Will the organizers behind “Help Erasmus” convince enough students to make their dream of paella, beer, and jet skiing for everyone come true? Time will show.
For additional information, please contact:
Mr. Luca Copetti (in English, French, Italian, and Dutch)
Tel.: 0032 (0) 496 548 021.
Or send a message to: you@HelpErasmus.eu (answers within a couple of hours, if not minutes)
You can also visit us at: www.HelpErasmus.eu
For additional interview partners from specific countries and/or in specific languages, please contact our representative above. We have potential interview partners from all EU member states for you.