garagErasmus Foundation’s statement: “Safeguarding Erasmus+: addressing budget cuts to uphold inclusive mobility”

The Erasmus+ programme is a well-known initiative of the EU that aims to support education, training, youth, and sport in Europe. With a budget of €26.2 billion covering the period 2021-2027, it provides opportunities for mobility and cooperation in higher education, school education, adult education, vocational education and training, youth and sport.

Since its inception, the Erasmus+ programme has been a tool for building a new generation of Europeans, strengthening European values and active participation in the EU’s democratic process. Indeed, thanks to mobility experiences and transnational cooperation, many young students and trainees have been able to explore different countries and cultures and understand the importance of a strong and cohesive European Union for a better future, united in diversity.

The importance of international cooperation and the Erasmus+ programme is also seen as essential to achieving EU priorities and the goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which is why the budget for the 2021-2027 programme has been increased, almost doubling the funding for 2014-2020.

The aim of this programme is to make learning mobility the norm and to enable as many people as possible to access the benefits of Erasmus+. To this end, on 15 November 2023, the European Commission adopted the proposal for a Council Recommendation “Recommendation ‘Europe on the move’ – learning mobility opportunities for all”, which includes three new targets at EU level by 2030 and sets a higher number of participants in learning mobilities, 20% of whom are people with fewer opportunities, to respond to the insufficient inclusion in Erasmus+.

On the other hand, the 2024 Erasmus+ annual work programme shows a decrease in the EU funding allocated to the programme, from €4.43 billion in 2023 to €4.39 billion in 2024: a cut of more than €38 million. Given this budget cut, it’s feared that the Erasmus+ programme will not only involve fewer participants in learning mobility and cooperation, but that this could also affect the inclusion of people with fewer opportunities and the quality of Erasmus+-related activities. Indeed, with less funding available, it could be more difficult to remove barriers to learning mobility, including disabilities, health problems, barriers related to education and training systems, cultural differences, social barriers, economic barriers, barriers related to discrimination and geographical barriers.

In recent years, data has shown that learning mobility is also an opportunity for learners, trainees and employees to develop skills needed on the labour market and, in particular, to reduce skills shortages by improving participants’ employability, developing their transversal competences and contributing to a better matching of skills.

2024 started with the Belgian Presidency, which has included in its mission a reflection on Erasmus+ and the European Solidarity Corps 2021-2027, taking place throughout its six months of activity. In this context, the garagErasmus Foundation hopes that the budget allocated to the Erasmus+ programme will be reconsidered, amending the Commission Implementing Decision C(2023) 6157, and that the programme will not suffer any further budget cuts in the coming years, in order to guarantee an inclusive and high-quality Erasmus+ programme.