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up to 12 months in another European country for either studies or for a

placement in a company or other organisation; competition policy; and

research, science and innovation. He said the Union took such aspects

“for granted”, as they were “part of the daily lives of our young people,

our businesses and our researchers and entrepreneurs.

“Today we celebrate the success of the Erasmus programme,” Moedas

said, “which since its inception in 1987 has already benefitted over three

million students. Today we take for granted that all students have to go

through this experience, but it wasn’t always like this.”

Moedas discussed his experience of the European student exchange

scheme, describing it as “a successful policy”, where “impact was far

beyond the simple academic exchange”. He then cited some of the

recently identified “invisible benefits” of the Erasmus programme.

“40% of Erasmus students had already gained professional experience

in a country other than their own; for those who didn’t do Erasmus, the

equivalent number is only 23%. On average, an Erasmus student will

have greater job mobility during his professional career; and 33% of

Erasmus students have a partner of a different nationality than yours.

“The Erasmus generation is indeed a European generation, a generation

that understands the benefits of mobility and values cultural diversity.

For this generation, the European project is truly irreversible because,

even when they return to their country and stay there all their life, they

never feel limited by their border.

“I doubt that the promoters of the original idea had the notion that with

this programme, they were to make a decisive contribution to this

invisible, but just as important, sense of European identity.”


Moedas then moved to discuss how the European project was “more

than a citizenship project”, but was “also a community of laws”.

“We all talk about the rules of the single currency and problems with

compliance. No doubt that there is much to do in this area, but we often

forget an area where the rules are applied relentlessly and scrupulously,

generating benefits for our economy and garnering respect around the

world. This area is the European Commission’s competition policy.”

The commissioner commented that significant achievements had been

made to create a European Economic Area that was an “area of free

competition, with a level playing field for companies and instruments to

counteract the harmful effects of monopolies.

“The Commission acquired the power to investigate anticompetitive

practices in 1962 and went on to have the authority to rule on big

mergers in 1990. One of the most useful has been fighting drug cartels

to fix higher prices, thus hurting us all. A 2013 study estimated that the

various decisions taken by the Commission in this area generated a direct

benefit to consumers of around €5bn. Mario Monti, Italian former prime

minister, recently wrote that “when the European Commission decides

on competition matters, everyone stops to listen to the roar of the lion”.

what Europe and Portugal would be like without

the EU.

“This could in fact refer to the central and

dramatic issues of war and peace. Or I could

tell you about more prosaic issues today of the

European project. Or the small victories that will

reach the tedious construction of the Union. But

the truth is that both issues – both the dramatic

and the prosaic – are closely linked.”

The commissioner then cited the words of

former European Council president Herman

Van Rompuy in his acceptance speech of the

Nobel Peace Prize for the EU, which was

presented to the Union in 2012. Quoting Van

Rompuy’s words, Moedas said: “This is where

the EU’s ‘secret weapon’ comes into play: an

unrivalled way of binding our interests so

tightly that war becomes materially impossible,

through constant negotiations, on ever more

topics, between ever more countries. It’s the

golden rule of Jean Monnet: “Mieux vaut se

disputer autour d’une table que sur un champ

de bataille. (‘Better fight around a table than

on a battlefield’).

“Admittedly, some aspects can be puzzling, and

not only to outsiders. Ministers from landlocked

countries passionately discussing fish-quotas;

Europarliamentarians from Scandinavia

debating the price of olive oil. The Union has

perfected the art of compromise. No drama of

victory or defeat, but ensuring all countries

emerge victorious from talks. For this, boring

politics is only a small price to pay.”

Erasmus generation

Moedas then drew attention to three areas that

“illustrate perfectly” the “invisible but very real”

advantages of the European project. He

discussed Erasmus, an EU programme that

enables students in higher education to spend

H O R I Z O N 2 0 2 0 P R O J E C T S : P O R TA L



N AT I O N A L F O C U S : P O R T U G A L

The Erasmus student

exchange scheme is

connecting different

nationalities from

across the continent