Erasmus is more than student’s mobility; it is a symbol of success of a good European project. For me it is a symbol of the reunification of the continent.
Commissioner Tibor Navracsics
On 13 December, the Royal Irish Academy in Dublin hosted a Citizens' Dialogue with Commissioner Tibor Navracsics, who was joined on stage by Helen McEntee TD, Minister of State for European Affairs.
There was a lively discussion with a roomful of people, with a child of around two year-old as the youngest. A wide range of topics were touched upon including the future of the EU, broadening the emotional appeal of the EU to younger and older generations, the benefits and future of Erasmus, fighting youth unemployment, the future of education in the light of future jobs and after Brexit, European culture and the upcoming year of Cultural Heritage, just to name a few.
The Dialogue started with a question to the audience regarding what kind of Europe they would like to live in, to which the top three responses were; peaceful, inclusive and welcoming. Prompted by this question the discussion continued on the future of Europe.
Responding to a question on the purpose of Citizens Dialogues, Commissioner Navracsics explained that the EU integration had arrived at a crossroads and it was important to channel people's opinions in the decision making to build Europe bottom up – for which Citizens' Dialogue was one of the tools.
Minister McEntee added that Member States are also trying to better engage with their citizens, especially after Brexit, and focus more on what is important to them. The debate continued on the role of EU, and the necessity to better explain its role to citizens.
Some participants expressed their concerns regarding the loss of appeal of the EU to young people, who think living outside the EU offers better opportunities, while another participant was wondering how we could better engage the disenchanted older generation.
Minister McEntee agreed that younger people often take the benefits of the EU for granted, and it would be good to explain it to them also regarding Ireland. Commissioner Navracsics stressed that at the same time we need to make the functioning of EU institutions understandable and transparent for citizens.
The discussion then moved on to Erasmus and several participants gave voice to their positive experiences, and were asking the Commissioner if it would be possible to extend the program to participants of different level of education, different social background and also to cover teacher exchanges at all levels.
The Commissioner and participants having gained experience in Erasmus confirmed that this was already happening. From Erasmus the debate shifted to language learning and the necessity to start it from a very young age. Commissioner Navracsics underlined that in the future European education area, all European students should speak two languages by the time they finish school.
Another snap vote revealed that most participants considered unemployment, housing and school stress as the biggest challenge facing youth today, and participants were wondering what the EU can do to fight youth unemployment. In addition to current labour market measures to address the situation now,
Commissioner Navracsics drew attention to the necessity of the transformation of education systems into more competence and skill based systems to prevent future unemployment.
The European culture emerged as the next topic of the discussion, and Commissioner Navracsics stressed that Europe is unique with its diversity of cultures and "European heroes" at the same time like Leonardo da Vinci, Cervantes or Yeats who are taught at every school regardless of nationality.
He encouraged young people to rediscover the richness of Europe's local and regional culture and make use of the events of the European Year of Cultural Heritage in 2018 to do this.
The event in Dublin was part of a series of Citizens' Dialogues that involve the whole European Commission and take place in all EU Member States.