Should all Europeans go on Erasmus? The late Italian novelist and semiotician, Umberto Eco, once half-jokingly suggested Erasmus should be compulsory “not just for students, but also for taxi drivers, plumbers and other workers. By this, I mean they need to spend time in other countries within the European Union; they should integrate.”

Eco argued that Erasmus is, of course, about opening minds and broadening horizons, but it’s also about more than that. As Eco put it, it’s a way to reach beyond national boundaries: “a young Catalan man meets a Flemish girl – they fall in love, they get married and they become European, as do their children”.

Eco’s suggestion was made to be provocative. Compulsory military service is considered a respectable policy by many, but requiring people to travel and experience life abroad is an imposition. Teaching young people to kill is fine, but encouraging them to find love outside of the tribe is taking it too far. Also, who would pay for it all?

However, the suggestion (even if made in jest) touches on a very real issue: not all Europeans experience the benefits of EU freedom of movement, beyond the occasional holiday abroad. Travelling, working, and living in another member state is still seen as a luxury for many European citizens.

Are there ways to open up freedom of movement to everyone? The think tank Friends of Europe has published an EU citizens’ “Mandate for Change“, setting out eleven ideas for revitalising the European project. They were formulated in response to a survey of 11,000 EU citizens, and have been presented to Members of the European Parliament as part of the #EuropeMatters project.

One of the ideas was to introduce “a Millennials Premium similar to ERASMUS+ but much larger in scope targeting young millennials that are furthest from the labour market and with very little hope in the ability of the European Union to address their problems. This initiative should have a focus and objective on these millennials becoming ambassadors of the EU’s values, its liberal democracy and a place of opportunity.”

Perhaps making Erasmus compulsory really is taking things too far. However, what about the idea of a “Millennials Premium”, an exchange programme designed not just for students but available for all young Europeans? Would a voluntary programme along these lines, open to all Europeans, help to spread the benefits of EU freedom of movement?

Should Erasmus be compulsory? Is the Erasmus programme too “elitist”? How can more people be given the opportunity to enjoy the benefits and freedoms of the EU? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!

IMAGE CREDITS: CC / Flickr – Jirka Matousek

95 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. avatar

    I like the idea of Erasmus and I see the logic behind wanting people to travel but I wouldn’t support it being compulsory. I just don’t think people should be forced to do stuff. Other than listen to me and agree with all of my opinions.

  2. avatar

    It should definitely be highly recommended

  3. avatar

    Yes, also for lower education!

    • avatar

      for lower education there are similar programs, like Comenius. But compulsory, never, ever!

    • avatar

      thats not lower education thats a pre education that I was talking about*

  4. avatar

    No! It violates the EU principle of FREE movement of people. When you force someone to move to another country, they no longer have free movement! Really, the EU is step by step turning into a second USSR! Next you’ll be centrally planning jobs and assigning living quarters.

    • avatar

      that strange logic. So i cross the road on red lights. Aka im not moveing freely?

      And comparing the eu with the USSR realy? Go back to history class. Imo you are the proof for needing erasmus.

    • avatar

      dude..thats not what free movement is…free movement actually enabled the European States to pursue such option without violating any rights. Its the same as a mandatory internship…

    • avatar

      My dear boy, you obviously don’t even realize how stupid and ignorant it is to tell a person from Eastern Europe to learn about communism and socialism from a history class. Our people LIVED IT.

    • avatar

      With the difference that mandatory internship doesn’t enforce you to change the country where you live!

    • avatar

      not realy. You are the idiot making the comparison. Did the eu kill you country men yet?

      Strange nationalist imo.

    • avatar

      i dont see any base in international and national law that would not allow a state to enforce a temporary stay in a foreign country.

    • avatar

      The principle of free movement that is embeded in the EU treaty from Maastricht directly contradicts such an idea. But even if it didn’t, from what you are saying it looks like you wouldn’t mind the government throwing you out of your own home and forcing you to live in another country for as long as they wish. Well, sorry, I would mind, as I believe any sane person would mind as well.

    • avatar

      I am making the comparison because it is obvious to anyone who knows what central planning and socialism are about.

    • avatar

      actually you are contradicting your statement about Free Movement. Free movement means same rules for EU citizens.That also means that its not a punishment to go to a different EU state. so the only argument you have is a little xenophobia. I am not sure if that is protected by human rights…

    • avatar

      as long as they wish? dude…this is about student exchange not relocation programs. For some programs ists already now mandatory…

    • avatar

      Just think a bit more. You want to become a university student, but it’s mandatory to move and study in another country. This means if you want to have any type of career and a chance for better life, you have no way of doing it without relocating to another country for several years. For some careers, like law and medicine this could mean 5+ years. But no, it’s not a relocation program at all…

    • avatar

      what are you talking about..erasmus is like 4-6 month not several years…

    • avatar

      Correct, but even so, the government shouldn’t have the right to force you to move to another country if you want to have a university degree, even if it’s for one day! Moving to another country shouldn’t be at all a mandatory requirement to finish university, I already explained why this is wrong and how it violates people’s freedom.

    • avatar

      and you still havent given me any real difference to a mandatory internship except its not in the own state…

    • avatar

      I did my Bachelor in the Netherlands, and the program had a compulsory exchange in the 3rd year of studies. Although popular, for me it was a logistical nightmare trying to find short-term accommodation in Austria and bringing all the stuff, while maintaining a guaranteed accommodation when I returned to the Netherlands. There were a lot of additional costs that went far beyond the ~800 EUR study grant. So no, I don’t think it should be compulsory, particularly for those that already study quite far away from their home country (Slovenia in my case).

    • avatar

      Very good points. But it worries me that people who always live in their country of birth have limited knowledge of other ways of life.

    • avatar

      How can there be free movement, if people in their head do not have that freedom, blocked by nationalistic, populist convictions?
      Ignorance is the start of the biggest political and social problems in Europe!

  5. avatar

    Nothing must be compulsory. EU is becoming a Dictatorship? The Cultural Marxism is killing EU

  6. avatar

    First of all, no. A person should be free to choose their education.
    Secondly – who’s going to pay for it?

    • avatar
      Debating Europe

      Hi Filipe, what’s stupid about it?

    • avatar

      Thank you for your reply, but isn’t the word “compulsory” ringing any bells? Wouldn’t “advisable” be more appropriate? “Compulsory” means dictatorship.

    • avatar

      there’s a huge jump from compulsory to dictatorship. Primary education is compulsory yet not exactly a central component of dictatorship. If you do not agree with the proposition put forth, there are myriads of ways to express that before reachingto such conclusions and accusations of dictatorship.

    • avatar

      Education is compulsory and free until 18 years old, when we reach majority. After that, and even agreeing that it would be beneficial to spend some time abroad, it’s legal to make our own decisions regarding where we want to go, and if we want to go. It’s legal to go to a university, to get a job, or both, or neither. It’s ok to stay in one’s country, or to go abroad, or even not to leave town forever. It’s even legal not to leave the house at all. When we reach 18, nothing regarding education or circulation is compulsory. At least in my country. And I prefer if it stays that way. I enjoy my freedom very much.

    • avatar

      yes that wasn’t contested. I said that primary education is compulsory as a response to your comment that anything compulsory entails dictatorship. I did not claim that all levels of education are or should be compulsory, so thank you for the explanation, but it is unfortunately irrelevant.

    • avatar

      well, thank you for making your point of view more clear. Nevertheless, something like Erasmus should be encouraged, but absolutely not “compulsory”. Otherwise, the right of free circulation would be at stake, and that would be, yes, dictatorial. That’s what I wanted to say in the first place.

  7. avatar

    Sounds like it’d be difficult to enforce that

  8. avatar

    I think Erasmus is great and happy there is this programme… But why do you want to impose it to everyone?!? Let people choose what is best for them…

  9. avatar

    EU is always about to impose things…interesting

  10. avatar

    How on Earth did you think of that question? Honestly, I literally got shivers when I read it. One of the most oppressing and despised practices of the communist regime in my country was the so called right to residence. It basically means that you can only live in a certain city chosen for you by the government. How is this different? Even if it is for several months or a year this is a major breach of human rights. Nevermind the right to free movement in the EU. How about the fundamental human right of free will? If we decide to impose something as basic as the the place a person lives how far are we from allocating them to a certain profession, a certain partner etc. This is nothing but autocracy and these radical left ideas should be stopped now before it is too late.

  11. avatar
    EU Reform- Proactive

    If you want to win/gain support in an election- be & act “popular”! Similar to the much despised nationalists- now grown into supra-nationalists!

    • In third world countries the ruling party issues free (“bribes”) T-shirts & food parcels in appreciation & anticipation to “listen”.

    • In the first world, these costs have gone up to include free travel & free re-education for a certain targeted group.

    All unpopular costs raised by the “rich” national taxpayers, being donated thereafter as a loyalty gift to its young guard by Brussels- tax-free!

    So wunderbar- so “Erasmus-ful!

  12. avatar

    The Erasmus idea should spread in all fields: for students, teachers, workers, soldiers and no-profit activist. Exchange is the key for richness.

    • avatar

      If people are encouraged and supported as much as necessary to improve, extend and widen their education – and their minds – we may still be able to build international understanding and co-operation (at least delaying WW2).

  13. avatar

    Not compulsory, but should be extended.

  14. avatar

    What next – forced relocation? Compulsory = dictatorship.

  15. avatar

    Who’s going to pay for it? In my times only students from “easy” faculties got grants (because they had higher marks). If you were from physics or engineering you had to have wealthy parents (+ most of the teachers did not want to acknowledge foreign credits so… )

  16. avatar
    C Price

    We need to fight for this, travel does really broaden the mind.

  17. avatar

    It should be better promoted in secondary schools and universities, for sure.

  18. avatar
    Wolfgang Mizelli

    when Europe becomes compulsory accessible and personal assistance is granted the way we dps need, maybe.

  19. avatar

    It’s a wonderful idea the Millenials Premium. Only through traveling and experiencing other European cultures are we able to understand them better. If Eurome doesn’t progress with integration by promoting individual cultures, we are bound to fail. Europe is free standing near a steep cliff and needs to refocus on its values.

  20. avatar

    No. Doing my Erasmus now in Finland, I am from Barcelona. Traveled quite a lot before. I agree there should always be the opportunity to go if you want to, but also having the capacity to choose not to be surrounded by strangers. At the end of the day I think in general terms education is great in whole Europe, so if you want to stay the whole term in your home university I don’t see why you should be forced…

  21. avatar

    And nationalistic ignorance and populism? Do you also keep it out of your country?

    • avatar

      there is nothing wrong with a sense of nationhood and cultural identity. Take that away and character is lost. Multiculturalism has not worked, it actually drives divisions!

  22. avatar

    Stupid idea. Make people go and they will just view it as a punishment and treat it as such.

  23. avatar

    Amazing program and one to expand but mandatory? I think not!

  24. avatar

    As a compulsory year or 6 months before taking up third level

  25. avatar

    Compulsory no but universities should encourage people more to go on Erasmus. I took tak opportunity twice noticing that only bechelors are likely to be there. Master students are totally minority.

  26. avatar

    Encouraged? Yes. Compulsory? Hell no.

  27. avatar

    I wrote my Master Thesis about that :D

  28. avatar

    when Europe becomes compulsory accessible and personal assistance is granted the way we dps need, maybe.

  29. avatar

    The question is even stupid and narrow minded.

  30. avatar

    no because what’s compulsory can never become popular. I always hated sport classes in school because they were obligatory, and untill now I don’t like sports

  31. avatar

    There’s not enough money to make it compulsory, and practically you just can’t, what if the students have kids or jobs they can’t leave. Also its worth noting that the Erasmus money doesn’t cover all the bills.

  32. avatar

    Not compulsory but widespread. Young People should have the opportunity to visit other nations, to understand the culture, customs and religion, sometimes so different from their own. It is very important to understand this World is place for all, no matter where you come from ☺

  33. avatar

    There is no logic behind making it compulsory except pushing EU’s political agenda & further integration. I don’t see any benefit of making it compulsory.

  34. avatar

    I think they should . I did it when I was 24 and it was the best experience ever

  35. avatar

    I like to enjoy benefits of EU by keeping EU out of my country.

    • avatar

      Yet we have to specify what those benefits really are. :)

    • avatar

      If you specify it doesn’t work because there is no any.

  36. avatar

    On voluntary basis – ERASMUS sounds great. Make it compulsory and it is turned into yet another tool to further the agenda of multi-culture society, the dream of globalists. Good things live on without the need to make them compulsory. Keeping in mind the double standards EU is pushing on every level anything on this scale proposed to become compulsory should NOT be accepted before all people of the eu member SOUVEREIGN STATES (not governments) have say in it.

    • avatar

      Freedom is not freedom if it’s not compulsory :)

    • avatar

      According to the EU apparently ;)

    • avatar

      Did you read the article? Where does it say that EU wants it to be compulsory? 🤨

    • avatar

      considering the fact that Debating Europe is a page with the main purpose of gauging european people opinion on various topics I think it is safe to say that this is not a random question that came out of the blue :)

    • avatar

      what about in the title?

  37. avatar

    Compulsory :) I guess we gonna meet that term more and more often from now on, while going after those more and more blur “european values”

  38. avatar

    Definitely yes, it’s a great experience that will change your life and your view in many more ways than you could anticipate when deciding not to apply. I’m only sorry I didn’t do it earlier :p

    • avatar

      Exactly ! If they handle all the expenses of a FORCED trip to a place of at least my choosing, than fine, otherwise no !

    • avatar

      So let me explain you the mechanism behind that. My mom pays in slightly higher taxes for me to go on Erasmus adventure. Otherwise I wouldn’t have that possibility. I do go then. After Erasmus I increase my market value & opportunities to that extent that I can find a better job. I do find it, go on and pay that slightly higher tax, as I can now afford that, for next person to go and enjoy the experience as well. That’s how an investment works my friend. I don’t support making it obligatory though. At the end it should be up to individuals if they want to enjoy it or have a higher return in anywhere else.

    • avatar

      Exactly, it should be up to individuals to decide what’s best for them !

    • avatar

      yes, but some families are already on the limite to pay education as it is and some countries don’t even have students loans. Erasmus usually has compensation that appears in the end of the Erasmus, this leads to have families (on the limite) that cannot afford the travel and, housing expenses (even though they will see money in the end of the year).
      I wanted to try Erasmus but, I could not because of this. So I think my question makes sense – if it gets mandatory who’s paying?
      Even if not counting with the monetary perspective I do not agree with making it mandatory.

  39. avatar

    I really like the idea of Erasmus programmes!!! its a nice chance to travel and meet people from other europian countries who have comon interests as you! Also you can find out about diffrent caltures and civilizations!!!! so i think Erasmus is a good idea to be compulsory!

  40. avatar

    I really like the idea of Erasmus programmes!!!! Its a nice chance for people to travel and meet other europian citizens who have comon interests as you!!!!! Also it gives you the opportunity to learn about the calture and civilizations of other europian countries!!!! So I believe that Erasmus should be compulsory!!!!!

  41. avatar

    You are going to force people who have no choice but to stay at home to go abroad…not everybody can just leave their country for one year

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