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Erasmus+ unclogs as new Cult committee takes over

Matt Salusbury writes

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As we go to press, administrative logjams caused by delays to the opening rounds of the European Commission’s Erasmus+ mega-programme for learning and mobility are apparently starting to ease.

The transition from the old Lifelong Learning Programme (Erasmus, Leonardo, Comenius and Grundtvig) to Erasmus+ came with last-minute sign-offs by the European Parliament, the Council of Ministers and the Commission in the run-up to the opening of the Erasmus+ seven-year run this January. Delays in technical aspects of the programme and in the release of the first round of funding to the various EU member states’ national agencies (some countries had new national agencies as well) meant that the initial round application dates were moved from mid-January to mid-March.

A source in the teacher development course provider sector told the Gazette that this season’s Erasmus+ grant application procedure appeared ‘more chaotic than normal’. The source said that national offices were in ‘furore’ throughout June, and the delay in the release of funding by the national agencies meant delayed decisions on applications for grants. Some teachers had to put off their applications for Erasmus-eligible courses to the last minute. One course provider told the Gazette at the end of June that applicants were phoning in at two days’ notice to book a course starting the following Monday because they’d just heard it had been approved.

The European Commission’s Erasmus+ web portal statement on ‘delay in issuing grant agreements’ noted that national agencies ‘received a high number of applications ... however, due to a number of technical difficulties some national agencies may not be in a position to sign grant agreements before the starting dates for the respective key actions’.

The 55 MEPs who are members of the new European Parliament Culture and Education Committee (Cult in Euro-speak) were announced in early July. Cult’s responsibilities include the Erasmus+ programme.

Cult’s new chair until late 2016 is Italian MEP Silvia Costa of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats group. Earlier this year she called for a ‘more tenacious fight against poverty’ by the EU. Her vice-chairs are Andrea Bocskor, Mircea Diaconu (a former actor who was a key figure in the 1989 Romanian revolution), Helga Trüpel and Michaela Sojdrová.

The committee has 32 full members and 23 ‘substitutes’. Full members include Isabelle Andolfini MEP of the Italian ‘anti-politics’ 5 Star Movement, Domique Bilde of the far-right French party Front Nationale and Louise Bours of British anti-EU party Ukip. Cult’s substitute members include Marie-Christine Boutonnet, also of the Front National, and Ukip’s deputy leader Paul Nuttal.