Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) stated that the 165,000 current Erasmus+ exchange students and 5000 EU volunteers should have extra costs reimbursed and rules applied flexibly, students must not lose an academic year and that EU volunteers could help member states to tackle the COVID-19 crisis.
In a letter addressed to Commissioner Mariya Gabriel on Wednesday, the Members of the Culture and Education Committee pointed out that the Commission’s current way of communicating, as well as the different approaches and lack of information from national agencies, do not provide certainty that extra costs will be reimbursed and that Erasmus+ exchange students and participants of the Solidarity Corps programme will be able to retain their status.
A total of 65 Maltese students were participating in the higher education programme. Of these 47 returned to Malta while 18 stayed abroad. A total of 243 other European nationals were in Malta as Erasmus+ students: of these 107 returned to their countries, whilst 136 remained.
The Commission has communicated that member state agencies which coordinate the projects may invoke force majeure clauses to enable grants to be paid when exchanges are cut short or otherwise interrupted, to enable activities to be postponed and to allow exceptional costs to be reimbursed.
EU volunteers must retain their status and be deployed to national schemes
In their letter, MEPs also call on the Commission to ensure that Solidarity Corps programme participants can retain their status as volunteers for the planned duration of their placement, even if it has been suspended, this in order to complete their voluntary service and not risk losing family income, like child support, that is linked to the volunteer status.
MEPs also recommend repurposing the voluntary activities for the suspended European Solidarity Corps participants by deploying volunteers to national support schemes being implemented to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The class of 2020 needs us”
The Chairperson of the Committee on Culture and Education, Sabine Verheyen said that they have a duty to make sure that those who signed up for EU programmes get the help and the support they need. As such MEPs called on the Commission to directly support all those participating in education, culture and youth programmes.
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