Which measures could make Erasmus+, Creative Europe and the European Solidarity Corps ‘greener’? As a rapporteur appointed by the Committee on Culture and Education (CULT) of the European Parliament, Laurence Farreng addressed this question in a report. For the DAADeuroletter the French MEP summarised its main findings and recommendations.

In preparing the report, you consulted a large number of stakeholders, including the DAAD. What do you consider to be the most significant findings from this consultation process? What impression did you gain from the Erasmus+ community on the subject of environmental protection and sustainability?

Laurence Farreng MEP:

I did indeed consult with many stakeholders while working on the report, be it National Agencies, project leaders, associations or the participants themselves. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the DAAD for its very valuable inputs and ideas! I was struck by the stakeholders’ commitment to making the three programmes Erasmus+, the European Solidarity Corps (ESC) and Creative Europe greener.

I was particularly pleased to be able to rely on the work already performed by different Erasmus+ Agencies already engaged in this green transition: green indicators and green mobility are themes they are already working on. I have seen that both the Agencies and participants are ready to embark on this green path and only seek to be supported by the institutions. It’s up to us, the European co legislators and institutions, to provide them with the necessary incentives.

The report contains concrete recommendations on how to make the Erasmus+ programme greener. What do you consider to be the key messages, particularly in the field of higher education? What role can the European Student Card and the Erasmus+ App play in this?

Laurence Farreng MEP:

I want to underline the importance of two principles that should remain inviolate:

  • Physical mobility is the very essence of the Erasmus+ programme. Virtual mobility, which is useful during a pandemic such as the one we are currently experiencing, can only be temporary or be seen as a complement to physical mobility.
  • Freedom of content and creation are essential. There may be specific project types that are promoted, but Erasmus+ projects must continue to be generated based on local needs, in a bottom-up rather than top-down approach.

I used this report to propose concrete measures that would encourage greening of the programmes; these are the main ones:

  • Participants should where possible be encouraged to reduce the environmental impact of these programmes by using less polluting means of transport than air travel, in particular by adjusting the grant amounts and not by imposing penalties. It must however be possible to measure this impact before it can be diminished, which is not possible at present. That is why I asked the Commission to establish environmental indicators. This request has been heard, and we are working on these indicators for the next Erasmus+ programme.
  • I also propose measures to take advantage of this incredible and life-changing experience that is Erasmus+; to change habits and introduce participants to new environmental practices. This is where the Erasmus+ App has a role to play, by providing information and local contacts to participants, for example. The European Student Card could in the medium term be developed to offer access to services that promote more eco-friendly life choices.
  • I am ultimately convinced of the great potential of Erasmus+, which we must further develop to create trans-European curricula addressing sustainable environmental development.

What importance do you attach to the European University Alliances with regards to a ‘greener’ Erasmus+ programme?

Laurence Farreng MEP:

In addition to the more traditional mobility and exchange projects, two very promising pilot projects are being funded under the Erasmus+ programme: the European Universities and the Centres of Excellence for Training and Learning. I am deeply convinced of the great potential of these two schemes to train tomorrow’s European sustainable development professionals.

There are already some European University Alliances working on green issues, and I very much hope that this will lead to the creation of pan-European curricula, but also to successful university projects that will find solutions to environmental challenges, thanks to the cooperation of European students, researchers and academics.

The European Year of Rail starts on 1 January 2021. What concrete value will this year add to the Erasmus+ programme and its participants?

Laurence Farreng MEP:

It is essential for the European Commission to seize this opportunity of developing partnerships with railway companies following what has already been achieved with Discover EU. Participants should be encouraged to use the railways for their main mobility as well as mobility within their host country.

The Commission’s communication on the creation of a European Education Area by 2025 refers, on the one hand, to the digital transformation and, on the other hand, to the ‘green’ transformation (Link). How can we ensure that these two transformations, which are crucial for the future, go hand in hand?

Laurence Farreng MEP:

Education is the cornerstone of both the green and digital transformations. It is clear that they cannot be delineated as a simple binary choice between the two. We therefore have to ensure that each of them works alongside the other. Given how crucial they are, they are also introducing a multitude of new and more efficient educational opportunities and further new skills, new jobs, new ways to interact, to connect, to fully grasp our citizenship as Europeans.

It is up to us to establish the principles of our green and digital transformations in a concrete manner. It means that the European Education Area has the opportunity to promote our values of inclusiveness, resilience and progress in forming the educative European tools for the new skills relating to the digital economy, environmental sustainability, the circular and climate-neutral economy. How can we succeed in the greatest challenge of human history without developing and using all the efficient tools we need? The first and essential stage is for digital technologies to be used to increase the quality and the number of our professionals working towards a climate-neutral economy.

Download: Full interview with MEP Laurence Farreng (pdf, 1.65 MB)