An earthquake shook during last week the Spanish society, when the ministry of Education published in the Spanish official Bulletin (BOE) the ministerial decision of cutting back the national support to the ERASMUS students from the current year on, except on the cases they had received a ministerial grant on the previous year.
This measure meant that most of the students (around 30.000) already at their foreign European universities would be affected, finding themselves with a smaller economical support than the one it was agreed when they accepted their destination. This in most cases would imply the need to cancel their stay abroad, a limitation on the possibilities to visit the neighbouring areas, or a bigger effort for their families.
Minister Wert, the promoter of the cuts in ERASMUS in Spain
But we use past tense, since one ERASMUS student from Spain found out about the decision and instantly set off the alarm. This triggered a chain reaction which involved all students, hundreds of student organisations, all social media with trending topics and a video, a successful online petition, and the whole society. They all joined forces to fight against the unfairness of the measure being applied to the current students. They also denounced the lack of vision of such an austerity measure, which will compromise the future of the competitiveness of the next generation of Spanish job seekers, in a Europe where mobility is more and more important.
AEGEE, as one of the main student stakeholders, was contacted by several national and local media. We had the opportunity to our position against the measure and to explain how it could harm the economic recuperation of Spain. Moreover, our local branches collaborated actively in the diffusion of the online petition that gathered 200.000 signatures in a very short time, and organised themselves to give an adequate response to the situation. The European Union also intervened and called off Spain for this measure that affects one of the most valued European programmes. In a moment where the European project needs more than ever success stories to fight against pessimism and Euroscepticism, the ERASMUS programme is a very sensitive topic in Brussels.
However, even if last week the minister Wert was forced by its own party to take the measure back in the current year, the situation for the next year is potentially at risk. Spanish ERASMUS students will protest next Saturday, Nov 16th, in front of embassies and consulates. Equally, AEGEE groups in Spain have already launched a follow-up task force. We need to be ready to react and defend the ERASMUS project from any austerity measure, since we believe it is one of the key tools the European youth has to be ready for the challenges of the future. We helped the ERASMUS coming to life in the mid-80’s, and we are not staying impassible when they threaten it anywhere in Europe today.
Written by Miguel Gallardo, Comité Directeur