On 13 September, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen delivered her annual State of the Union (SOTEU) speech ahead of the European elections next year.
The Erasmus Student Network (ESN) welcomes the announcement of President Ursula von der Leyen of directing focus on European competitiveness, including acceleration of the Green transition, and also on the enlargement of the Union with the ultimate goal of 30+ member states in the future. However, ESN also urges for more tangible actions in the realm of policies targeted at youth, education, and training.
As President von Der Leyen invoked there is a ‘call of history’ upon the European Union to answer, especially related to the 2024 European Parliament Elections, where thousands of young mobile voters will have the opportunity to actively engage in EU democracy. As the Erasmus Student Network, we believe in the invaluable impact of participation in mobility as an opportunity to foster civic engagement and democratic participation. Furthermore, we have surveyed mobile students on their perceptions of the EU and their willingness to vote in the next EU elections. The XV ESNsurvey preliminary findings have shown that 21% of the exchange student respondents are likely to vote in the next elections, followed by 45% being extremely likely to vote.
ESN, through a multitude of initiatives and projects, is committed to not only encouraging young people to vote in elections but also to the broader mission of improving their active engagement and involvement in society. In this perspective, we have partnered up with the European Parliament in the Erasmus Generation in Action (EGiA) project. With EGiA we intend to increase awareness and engagement among young people in regard to opportunities and benefits offered by the EU, by showcasing the necessary steps for young people to vote from abroad.
Commitment to fighting climate change and entering into a new phase of the European Green Deal was mentioned as a key priority. It is crucial for the EU and other relevant stakeholders to incorporate greater sustainability criteria and actions in their environmental policies to foster more and better mobility. While comparing the Green Erasmus Report with the XV ESNsurvey results, we notice a tangible disparity between the attitudes and actions among Erasmus students, where students are concerned about climate change, but factors such as cost and distance present significant obstacles to the adoption of more sustainable practices, with students still choosing plane as their preferred method of transportation from students to go and come back from mobility.
We welcome the continuity of digital transformation as a Union priority. The introduction of digitalisation within Erasmus+ programme exerts a positive influence on the overall administrative processes and procedures, providing more access to mobility opportunities. With this in mind, we look forward to seeing these measures strengthened through improved support mechanisms for credit recognition and the digitalisation of administrative procedures, as exemplified by initiatives such as the Erasmus Without Paper.
In the current global landscape, international collaboration has become increasingly vital. We welcome the enlargement of the EU borders as a priority of the EU, where the Erasmus+ programme plays a pivotal role in broadening the horizons of young people worldwide. From this perspective, it’s evident the new efforts done to extend the Erasmus+ opportunities to neighboring countries, although the support needs to be widened in order to avoid noticeable challenges, such as Visa constraints and problems with the automatic recognition of credits.
Moreover, it is important to emphasize the continuous commitment to supporting Ukrainian students in their pursuit of international educational opportunities. ESN, in close collaboration with its partners, remains dedicated to advocating for the facilitation of access to such opportunities for Ukrainian students.
The State of the European Union 2023 provided a roadmap for the implementation of key EU priorities, and as the Erasmus Student Network we remain motivated by their reinforcement through concrete actions that will support learning mobility for young people. Furthermore, we stand ready to collaborate with a multitude of partners to achieve our shared objectives.