Big reunion of Erasmus commences in Istanbul

Big reunion of Erasmus commences in Istanbul

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Big reunion of Erasmus commences in Istanbul

Erasmus students to Turkey are promoting the country when they return to their hometowns, Minister Bağış says. AA photo

A large project to reunite some 3 million people that have taken part in the European Union’s Erasmus student exchange program kicked off with a debut meeting and workshops in Istanbul over the weekend.

The GaragErasmus was an idea that was developed in Italy before receiving a warm welcome in Brussels. The program, which will continue with meetings across Europe, has three main goals, Nicola Filizola, the representative of the Brussels office, told the Daily News on the sidelines of the meeting on April 20. One of the goals is encouraging entrepreneurship among these 3 million people, the “Erasmus generation.” The second goal is presenting this talented generation to businesspeople in cooperation with recruiters. The last goal is helping the graduates keep in touch and create their own businesses, he said, noting that the group’s was the main tool for networking.

The final decision to launch the group was made in November 2012 in Brussels, Francesco Cappè, Executive Chairman of GaragErasmus, said while addressingthe audiance. The 33 countries that took part in the Erasmus program, which started in 1987, have all joined the reunion project. This new generation is “young, open-minded and multicultural,” Filizola said. “This type of network is ready to drive a change in Europe and beyond.”

Turkish European Union Affairs Minister Egemen Bağış also said during the preparation efforts in Brussels that the initiative was very important, he said.

Breaking with prejudices

It was very meaningful to host the first meeting of the garagerasmus in Istanbul, particularly the Ortaköy neighborhood by the Bosphorus, where one can find holy places for Islam, Christianity and Judaism, Bağış said. “I thank and congratulate our Italian friends and officials at the Garagerasmus project for such a correct pick.”

Erasmus is important in terms of breaking with prejudices, which is the main obstacle in Turkey’s EU membership bid, Bağış said. “The Erasmus program students who come here break with their prejudices about Turkey and promote Turkey just like an ambassador,” he said, adding that this was the case for Turkish students also. Turkey only sent 8,000 people to the Erasmus program in 2004, its first year in the system. This figure rose to 44,000 in 2010, before hitting 62,000 last year. The 2013 goal is 70,000, Bağış said. “We will increase this number every year,” the minister said. “Getting an education in Europe is no longer a privilege for the upper crust.”

İlyas Ülgür, the coordinator of the Turkish EU Ministry’s Erasmus Program unit, told the Daily News that 90,000 Turkish students – 55 percent of which are female – have participated in Erasmus so far. In addition, around 30,000 academics have joined the program, tutoring abroad, he said, adding that this contributed much to the confidence of the staff.