Europe’s first citizens initiative asks for 3% of the EU budget being spent on EU exchange programmes starting from 2014

Fraternité 2020 (F2020) is Europe’s very first citizens’ initiative. It is supported by over 100 NGOs from all across the EU and beyond, around 50 MEPs from all major political parties, and an increasing number of EU citizens. On October 26 it started collecting signatures online. Without investing a single Euro into its campaign, it already collected several thousand signatures from all 27 member states.

Simona Pronckutė, member of F2020 from Lithuania, explained F2020’s position at a public hearing in the EP organised by AEGEE, one of F2020’s biggest supporting NGOs:

“The share of the EU budget currently spent on EU exchange programmes is around 1.2%. The Commission has proposed to increase this amount to around 1.6% in the future. This is simply too low to reach out to individual citizens on a sufficient scale.

Fraternité 2020 calls on the European Council to go beyond this proposal in its extraordinary summit on November 22.-23. in Brussels. We deem a share of 3% of the EU budget being spent on EU exchange programmes starting from 2014 appropriate in the current economic environment. The expansion of EU exchange programmes will help to bring down youth unemployment and will stimulate sustainable growth by investing in Europe’s people – the most precious resource our continent has to offer.

We call on all EU citizens that have – in spite of all crises – not lost hope for a united and harmonious future of our continent to sign Fraternité 2020 before November 22 to send a strong signal to the European Council that this is what they, the citizens of Europe, want.”

Philipp Perchoc, member of F2020 for France:

“We had people increasingly asking us about our first goal, in which we ask for 10% of the EU budget being spent on exchange programmes eventually. Of course this figure was never intended as a point of reference for the current MFF 2014-2020 negotiations; but as a long-term goal. With this statement it should be clear that F2020 is promoting a very realistic alternative on the future course of Europe that deserves to be taken seriously.”

Miguel Otero-Iglesias, member of F2020 for Spain and Assistant Professor at the ESSCA School of Management in Angers (France):

“The increase proposed by the Commission is really rather disappointing. When expressing figures in real terms and accounting for inflation there is not much left as an increase. There are things that need to be cut in austere times, and there are things that need to be expanded. Investing in EU exchange programmes and the qualification of EU citizens clearly belongs to the latter category.”

Luca Copetti, member of F2020 for Belgium:

“The number three has always been symbolic. For us, too. That is why we ask that 3% of the EU budget is spent on EU exchange programs starting from 2014. This is a chance for Europe to change the course of things and to return to the fundamental problems of the current crisis, which includes a social component: When people in Germany do not understand anymore why they should help people in Greece, then Europe has a problem. We just hope that in spite of the current problems there are still enough people believing in a united Europe out there.”

Alessandra Mirabile, member of F2020 for Italy:

“People often tell me, ‘you must be disappointed that F2020 is taking place in the current EU crisis.’ I actually see it the other way around. It is exactly now that people need to take a stand for a common Europe! We are not happy with every little detail of the EU either; but in general one needs to acknowledge that this is the most wonderful and deserving project bringing people of different creed and culture together, on a continent that was shaken by so many horrible wars before that. There are certainly things that need to be improved. But we must not throw out the baby with the bathwater!”

About the ECI: The European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) is one of the major innovations of the Treaty of Lisbon, aimed at increasing direct democracy in the EU. The initiative enables one million EU citizens, who are nationals of at least one quarter of the Member States, to call directly on the European Commission to propose a legal act in an area within the competences of the EU. In order to launch an ECI, citizens must form a citizens’ committee composed of seven EU citizens from seven different member states. The first ever such ECI is Fraternité 2020, which was registered on May 09 (Europe day) this year (see here). After teething problems as Europe’s very first ECI were over come with the help of the Commission, it could start collecting signatures on October 26 this year (see here). It now has until November 1, 2013, to collect 1 million signatures online from across the EU.

About EU exchange programmes: The current budget for the ‘Lifelong Learning Programme’ + ‘Youth in Action’ and the other international education programmes comes to around 1.2% of the budget.

The new Erasmus for All brings together all the current EU and international schemes for education, training, youth and sport, replacing seven existing programmes – Lifelong Learning Programme (includes Erasmus, Leonardo da Vinci, Comenius, Grundtvig), Youth in Action, Erasmus Mundus, Tempus, Alfa, Edulink and the bilateral cooperation programme with industrialised countries.

As a percentage of the EU budget, Erasmus for All (EUR 19 billion) represents 1.6% of the proposed budget for 2014-2020 (EUR 1.025 trillion).