Erasmus+ program: which future for students from Bosnia and Herzegovina?

, by Maja Tuljkovic

Erasmus+ program: which future for students from Bosnia and Herzegovina?

European parliamentarians adopted a new EU program for education, training and youth support called Erasmus+ at a session that was held on 19 November in Strasbourg, and the most amount of money has been donated for the implementation of this program.

It is anticipated that with the new EU program, more than four million young people in Europe will receive the opportunity to acquire knowledge and skills in the next seven years (2014-2020) through learning, trainings, working and volunteering. The budget of 14,7 billion Euros will be spent for scholarships for two million students, 650,000 students in programs of vocational training, while half a million young people will receive funding to volunteer in other countries. The program will include assistance for teachers, professors and scientists.

The Head of the Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) Mission to the European Union Igor Davidović immediately sent a request for students and youth from B&H to participate in this program. However, the B&H Minister of Civil Affairs Sredoje Nović sent a letter to Davidović, in which he wrote that B&H would not participate in the biggest EU program for education, support and youth training, because they did not collect the approval at all levels of government. In other words, this is to say that B&H students do not need the millions of dollars of aid.

According to Ernad Čomaga, President of the Democratic Youth Movement in Sarajevo, the B&H Ministry for Civil Affairs has withdrawn from applying for these funds because of opposition from the Ministry of Education and Culture of the RS Goran Mutabdžija. It is supposedly contentious that the implementation of this program means that subsequently a coordination office at the state level would be formed, which the RS immediately interpreted as another attempt at transferring powers from the entities to the state, which would in turn strengthen the state. As a result of this, students in B&H launched a petition in which they asked ‘’to urgently take measures so that B&H could become a member of the Erasmus+ program, and for young people in B&H to have the chance to travel and to educate themselves throughout Europe. Otherwise, it would take all legal measures into account that would end up discrediting the current government in B&H’’.

Afterwards, the RS government gave approval for the partial participation of B&H in the Erasmus+ program. RS Minister of Education and Culture Goran Mutabdžija said that the program has two levels, and that for now the RS government agrees for B&H to participate in the first phase, as a partner, and for which it will pay €115.000 for entry. This decision from the RS was confirmed by the B&H Deputy Minister of Civil Affairs Denisa Sarajlić-Maglić, who pointed out that ‘’participation in the program is a huge investment in the B&H educational system, and that it would certainly give young people a chance to acquire knowledge and skills that would make them competitive in the labor market’’.

However, students and members of the informal group of youth (Re)volucija+ considered this decision by the RS a deception to the public, and said in their statement: ‘’We are responsibly arguing that this is a clear falsehood, and that everything that Mutabdžija’s PR team cleverly sent to the public is actually an attempt to manipulate and deceive the public of this country. As it was stated in the press release, the RS government gave approval for B&H to partially participate in this program as a partner, for which it will pay 115.000 Euros for entry. However, a small but important detail that Mutabdžija neglected to include is that in this case, the approval of the RS is not necessary!’’

As an example, they cited the statement given by the Spokesperson of the EU Delegation and EU Special Representative to B&H Andy McGuffie, which states that a part of the Erasmus+ program will be available to B&H citizens, and the approval of entities is not needed for this.

These statements by politicians regarding the Erasmus+ program and the problems in education were the reason for the organization of student protests called (R)EVOLUCIJA+ on 21 December 2013. The protests were held in five cities in B&H, and were peaceful and without any political or national connotations. Unfortunately, the gathering of the students on the streets of B&H cities did not induce politicians to be more engaged in resolving the problem of B&H’s participation in the Erasmus+ program.

According to Samir Beharić, one of the members of the informal group that organized the protests and a current scholarship recipient of the Erasmus Mundus program at Freie University in Berlin, B&H in the meantime is excluded from the European Youth in Action Program, a platform for non-formal education, whose beneficiaries until now have received tremendous use from it. The reason is the lack of a national agency, and B&H politicians are not able to agree on the formation of an agency at the state level.

‘’From 1 January 2014, we will be able to apply exclusively as a partner country, while we are not in a position any longer to withdraw funds from this colossal program of the EU. This is one more direct consequence of the decisions of our politicians’’, said Beharić.

Stopping Erasmus+ program to students in B&H prevents participation in exchange programs in EU countries for the next seven years. Until 2020, students will not be able to volunteer through the most well known European Volunteering Service (EVS), and will ultimately be left at the employment offices. Students claim that they have had enough of argument and divisions, that they don’t care where someone is from, whether the person is a Croat, Serb or Bosniak. Young people are asking themselves whether the sentence ‘the world is left to young people’ matters any longer?

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