Debate with Erasmus students on Nobel Peace Prize and future of Europe
On Tuesday, President Barroso took part in a debate with Erasmus students from all across Europe. The debate was on four issues: the Nobel Peace Prize for the EU, the current economic situation, youth and the future of Europe.
32 students currently on their Erasmus exchange participated in the debate. They represented all 27 EU countries and five other countries participating in the Erasmus framework: Switzerland, Croatia, Iceland, Norway and Turkey.
One of the first questions was on whether the EU deserves the Nobel Peace Prize. President Barroso answered that while humbled and honored at the same time, he believes the EU deserves the prize as "the European Union is the most successful project ever of transnational cooperation. Never in the history of mankind did we have 27 countries that decided freely to share sovereignty, to put their capacities together around the values of peace, freedom and democracy."
On the current economic crisis, students voiced their concerns over social unrest driven by the crisis and the rise of extremist and populist forces in some of the European countries. President Barroso responded that while the EU was not the cause of this crisis, it plays a vital role in finding solutions, for example by endorsing deeper Economic and Monetary Union and European banking supervision.
The students were naturally interested in future of the Erasmus programme and ways to fight high levels of youth unemployment. President Barroso could share good news that an agreement has been reached for additional funding needed for 2013 and assured the students that the programme has a firm place in the EU's long term budget. In fact, the proposal of the Commission is to extend Erasmus, both for university students and other young people such as entrepreneurs. He reiterated that the Commission is very concerned with high levels of youth unemployment and is taking numerous steps to combat it, for example the Youth Employment package adopted by the Commission just last week.
The debate concluded with several questions on the future of Europe including, for example, enlargement and European political integration.