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The European Commission (EC) has announced that the Erasmus Mundus higher education programme is to be extended as a response to the Arab Spring.
EUR66 million (US$90 million) will be allocated to the initiative aimed at achieving better understanding and mutual enrichment between the European Union and neighbouring countries by creating possibilities for student and academic staff mobility.
The move is part of a new approach towards Europe's neighbours to the east and south, based on “mutual accountability and a shared commitment to respecting universal values, international human rights standards, democracy and the rule of law”, the commission said.
The Polish government, currently holding the EU presidency, has made expansion of Erasmus programmes to eastern and southern neighbours a priority.
Following a comprehensive review of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP), launched in 2010, the commission says a strengthened engagement in the area of education is a crucial element of the new approach towards the ENP countries. The funding will be spread over the next four years.
The commission argued that, as most European Neighbourhood Policy countries are in the process of working towards establishing fully-fledged market economies, higher education institutions are under strong pressure to provide the skills required by new economic conditions.
The Erasmus Mundus extension is one aspect of a four-part plan, outlined last week, to respond to the Arab Spring. The flagship initiative is the Support to Partnership, Reform and Inclusive Growth (SPRING) Programme, adopted on 27 September.
Posted by Keith Broomer
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