Erasmus with a twist

After the success of Erasmus for students, apprentices, young entrepreneurs, higher education professionals and journalists, ALDE’s Vice-President in the European Committee of the Regions François Decoster now urges for an Erasmus programme for local representatives.

After a successful pilot project from 2012-2013 with more than 1 000 applications for only 100 available places, François Decoster is actively advocating a new training programme to test during the course of 2018 to 2020, with a view to including it in the European Commission’s new legislative planning to create a full Erasmus programme for locally elected representatives.

“Elected local representatives generally enjoy considerable higher levels of trust from their fellow citizens than the majority of national politicians, and are the essential link between Europe and its citizens, yet they do not always receive all the required training prior to perform their duties. “We should therefore encourage exchanges between local and regional authorities, particularly with regards to all funding programmes such as for instance the cohesion funds, to achieve real European added value”. Representatives with different needs and backgrounds could then be divided into groups facing the same challenges or mixed groups with people who already have some experience about any given topic, and be organised according to one common language to facilitate the exchange.

“With this new innovative training tool, elected representatives who work on the same topics in different member states will be able to exchange best practices, improve their knowledge of European legislation, create constructive links between people and launch new local and regional initiatives, all of which are key elements in developing human capital and meeting European integration objectives”.

As for the costs, these can be shared by EU budgets, the respective local authorities of the representatives taking part and if need be by training bodies receiving public funds in member states. Among the next steps to take, Decoster proposes that the European Parliament supports this programme as it did in 2012 by proposing to include the pilot project for the budget in 2018 for implementation in 2019; while quickly establishing a working group with representatives of the European Commission, European Parliament and the European Committee of the Regions to develop and prepare this programme. “European institutions cannot ignore this call from local elected representatives, particularly in relation to the upcoming European elections of 2019” concludes Decoster.

François Decoster chaired the workshop “Erasmus for local and regional politicians” connected to his report during the European Week of Regions and Cities on October 10, 2017.

A version of this article appeared in Parliament Magazine’s Regional Review.

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