Published: Fri, 22 April 2022
MEP for Ireland South, Seán Kelly, has written to Minister Simon Harris and the European Commission to explore options for Northern Ireland to be granted full access to the Erasmus+ program.
“Erasmus+ is a brilliant EU program, which was first set up 35 years ago to facilitate study exchange programs for higher education students across Europe. Since then, nine million people have participated in it, and it has been extended to a wider range of groups and actions. It is a true success story for the EU,” said Kelly, a former teacher.
“The UK were welcome to remain a part of Erasmus+ even after Brexit, as third countries can chose to be associated to the program (such as Norway, Turkey and Serbia). Although Boris Johnson promised that there was no likelihood of the UK leaving Erasmus+ in early 2020, like so many other promises he makes there was little intention behind his words. Meaning unfortunately the UK completely withdrew from the program,” Kelly added, who leads the Fine Gael delegation in the European Parliament.
“However, the Irish government stepped in to ensure that higher education students in Northern Ireland can still qualify for Erasmus+ exchanges, and made a permanent commitment to fund their Erasmus+ grants. This was certainly the correct decision and I was happy to see the government this action and they should be commended for it,” Kelly continued.
“This was a huge relief to many students in Northern Ireland, but unfortunately it has not meant that Northern Ireland have retained full access to Erasmus+. While higher education student exchanges are the most noteworthy aspect of the program, people in Northern Ireland are not currently eligible for other Erasmus+ actions, such as exchanges for apprentices, youth groups and teachers, as well as DiscoverEU, which awards free one-month interrail passes to thousands of 18 years olds every year.”
“I’ve been in touch with the Commission, and unfortunately it’s not as straightforward as Ireland providing the funding. Certain structures would also have to be put in place but I feel it could be possible and we should work towards finding a solution. I will continue to work with the Commission and the Irish government to see what could be done,” concluded Kelly, who is first Vice Chair of the European Parliament’s Delegation to the EU-UK Parliamentary Partnership Assembly.