By awarding the 19th Médaille Charlemagne pour les Médias Européens to the Erasmus Student Network, the board of trustees is honouring the network’s services as trans-European. This organisation not only supports students in completing semesters abroad, but also basically pursues the goal of bringing together people from different cultural backgrounds.
Inter-state resentment within Europe is becoming ever larger. Citizens, parties and even governments are ever more often coming out openly in favour of national interests instead of a common Europe, demarcation is called for ever more frequently and ever more openly.
If these trends cannot be stopped, it must be feared that there will never be a common Europe over the long term.
In the past, the accent has often been placed on economic aspects when it comes to explaining the benefits of a united Europe. This is without doubt an important aspect, although – as has been shown in the past – it does not necessarily mean that people see themselves as Europeans or speak up for a united Europe.
A united Europe can only function when people start to not only think of themselves as Polish, German, Dutch, Belgian, etc., but also as Europeans (although without losing their national identities). Over the long term, there will not be a united Europe without ties or without emotions.
It is essential that we get to know other countries, their cultures and mentalities for this purpose. Relationships are built up and resentment reduced by studying and living in a different country, by meeting and exchanging views with foreigners. We need curious young people who are open to the world. As supporters of a united Europe, they must stand up for its values, bring about a Europe with heart and understanding and convey the benefits of Europe.
The programme of the Erasmus Student Network starts at precisely this point. Its manifesto is based on mutual respect, tolerance, openness and the endorsement of a united Europe.
The work of the Erasmus Student Network is primarily to support the performance of semesters abroad, although this is not the end of the mission. It is much more the case that an exchange is actively encouraged.
The guidelines of the Erasmus Student Networks state in this context: “Under the motto “Students help Students”, we provide space for further personal development and promote the coming together of different cultures. We are receptive, mobile, curious, cooperative and interactive in order to break down barriers. We live and promote the variety of Europe. We try to understand people of other origins and to learn from them”.
In an age when voices against a united Europe are growing ever louder, the Erasmus Student Network publicly stands for a common Europe and has proved to be a true supporter of a common Europe.