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Next EU Budget: Lack of political ambition leads to cut on social Europe

On Tuesday, July 21st, and after over four days of intense negotiations, European leaders finally reached an agreement over the next seven-year EU Budget and closely-related Recovery Fund. 

To any external observer, it was clear that the EU own budget would have fallen victim to the economic needs of the Recovery Fund (called ‘Next Generation EU’), which prompted bitter disputes between Member States. The Multiannual Financial Framework for the next cycle (2021-2027) is 1.074 trillion euros, plus the extraordinary 750 billion euros that will feed the Next Generation EU: an impressive agreement per se, especially in consideration of the difficulties along the way. 

In this context, the total budget for the next Erasmus+ programme is set at 21.208 billion euros, which is the same budget proposed by the Council itself in February before the COVID crisis. This amount openly defies the European Parliament’s concerns and leaves civil society’s cries unheard, including our Erasmus+ Coalition statement. Moreover, this figure represents a 5.2 billion cut (almost -20%) from the original European Commission proposal and a staggering 23.8 billion cut (-53%) from what the European Parliament deemed necessary

Other programmes that transversally touch upon education and training such as Horizon+ (80.9 billion euros, with a total reduction of 13.5 billion euros from previous Commission’s proposals) and Justice, Rights and Values (841 million euros, against the 1.83 billion euros demanded by CSOs and the European Parliament) have suffered cuts in funding. Overall, it is surprising to realise that cuts mostly affect the Heading 7 of the budget, ‘Investing in People, Social Cohesion and Values’: this alone says a lot about the European Council’s priorities.

Addressing the unprecedented consequences of the health crisis in education and training requires serious investments and political commitment. In this very particular moment, Europe cannot afford to leave behind vulnerable learners by failing to adequately inject much-needed investments into the social sphere. While the Next Generation EU rightfully focuses on the immediate recovery of the economy, European leaders do not seem to share the view that a democratic, sustainable and socially cohesive Union, in the long-term, cannot be built on industry and infrastructure alone but shall rise from values, solidarity and competences of its people. Ensuring employment and economic prosperity will not be enough to overcome the consequences of an ongoing traumatic experience for all citizens: this is a short-sighted action.

Furthermore, the agreed budget falls short on Europe’s own ambitions. We can’t help but notice a profound disconnection between political declarations to invest in education, training, research and youth, and the outcomes of decision-making processes. President von der Leyen herself, at the beginning of her mandate, claimed to support the tripling of the Erasmus+ budget; instead, for the next cycle, the Erasmus+ will see a mere +50% increase over the 2014-2020 budget. We regret to acknowledge that European leaders overlooked a great opportunity for upscaling education and training transversally in Europe. This envelope is not enough to deliver on the ambitious (and much-needed) goals of the future programme for learning mobility, cooperation between organisations and support for policy reform across all sectors, not to mention its sought contribution to implementing the European Education Area, EU Youth Strategy and the European Green Deal, among other priorities. 

Make no mistakes: this agreement is a shaky message to European citizens and an earthquake to European ambitions in education and training and other sectors alike. 

Erasmus+ Coalition joint statement on the revised proposal for EU Multiannual Financial Framework 2021-2027

The European Commission’s revised proposal for the next long-term EU budget (2021-2027) brings both hope and disappointment. The strong commitment to European cooperation and public investment demonstrated by its proposed allocation of 1.1 trillion euros, along with 750 billion euros for recovery instrument NextGenerationEU, is a positive sign for the future of Europe. Addressing the social and economic impact of the COVID-19 crisis, as well as the green and digital transitions, certainly requires ambitious public investment. In this regard, Europe cannot afford to leave people behind by failing to adequately channel such investment into funding programmes which have a tangible and positive impact on their lives while also helping to tackle the above challenges and contribute to the EU’s recovery. However, compared to the Commission’s original proposal from 2018, the revision surprisingly reduces the allocation to such programmes.

Read the full statement here

The revised EU budget: is it enough to build a learning Europe?

On 27 May, the European Commission published its revised proposal for the EU Multiannual Financial Framework (2021-2027) along with the new financial instrument Next Generation EU aimed at helping EU Member States recover from the crisis provoked by the COVID-19 pandemic. Together these amount to a total of 1.85 trillion euros for the next seven-year period. 

We welcome this ambitious financial package as a clear demonstration of the added value that European cooperation brings in such challenging times. Nevertheless, while increases to many funding programmes including Erasmus+ compared to the current MFF are a welcome development, we are concerned that the key role of education, training and lifelong learning in the recovery and overall future of Europe have not been recognised. Indeed, the proposed budget for Erasmus+, which at 24.6 billion euros in 2018 prices amounts to less than the doubling put forward that year, falls short of the ambition expressed by the European Parliament and Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen herself.

As drivers of social cohesion, economic prosperity and innovation, education, training and lifelong learning remain vital for the personal and professional development of all people across Europe, as well as their well-being. They are key for empowering citizens in their daily lives. Hence, we stress that they should be a cross-cutting priority across the next generation of EU funding programmes. Erasmus+, for instance, has repeatedly proven its immense value in promoting skills development across various fields, fostering a sense of European belonging and solidarity and supporting cross-border cooperation among learners, educators, civil society organisations and policymakers. In light of the far-reaching impact of the pandemic on our education and training systems, including the investment gap in digital solutions that it has brought to light, we need this now more than ever. 

Synergies between the future Erasmus+ and other programmes touching on social welfare, skills and employment (European Social Fund Plus, 86 billion euros), digitalisation (Digital Europe, 8.2 billion euros), social infrastructure (InvestEU, 31.6 billion euros) and research and innovation (Horizon Europe, 94.4 billion euros) also have vast potential for supporting Europe’s path to recovery. After all, education, training and lifelong learning are not just means to an end, or for meeting short-term demands on the labour market, but serve as a vehicle for promoting creativity, adaptability,  entrepreneurial spirit and innovative solutions. These will all be crucial in dealing with Europe’s common challenges in the months and years to come. 

We call on the Member States to back an ambitious budget for education, training and lifelong learning – in all their shapes and forms – in the next MFF and as part of the EU recovery plan. As we navigate our way out of this crisis, they will be fundamental for empowering people, supporting their well-being and active participation in society, and ensuring our readiness to solve the challenges that lie ahead.


The Lifelong Learning Platform (European Civil Society for Education) is an umbrella that gathers more than 40 European organisations active in the field of education, training and youth. Currently these networks represent more than 50 000 educational institutions and associations covering all sectors of formal, non-formal and informal learning. Their members reach out to several millions of beneficiaries.

Contact: policy@lllplatform.eu – Rue de l’Industrie, 10 – 1000 Bruxelles – 02 893 25 15