The European Commission has announced that its Erasmus programme is running out of money, due to the current economic crisis and consequent cuts to the budget made by the European Parliament and the State members.

"The European Social Fund is bankrupt," said Alain Lamassoure, a French MEP and chairperson of the Community budget committee.

However, the Education and Train branch of the EC states on its website that "Erasmus students who go abroad during the first semester 2012-2013 should not have problems receiving funds for their studies and placements abroad. The National Agencies responsible for the Lifelong Learning Programme have received enough funds from the European Commission to cover their grants."

So we’re safe for this year, but what will happen in the future? That much remains unknown. What’s sure is that the risk of losing one of the most important European programmes, which has grown from 3000 students involved in 1987, the year of its foundation, to a predicted 3 million by the end of 2012, is high.

During the last 25 years it has improved European mobility; an effort to knock down the still exiting barriers between different national education systems. An Erasmus experience is generally considered something that would  ‘change your life forever’, and many students who tried it would be willing to say so. Erasmus is probably one of the few European programmes that really makes the difference in young students' lives when they think about Europe and themselves being part of it as ‘European’. Many webs of friends throughout Europe had been woven by people from different countries, thanks to Erasmus.

The economic crisis Europe has to deal with is a very serious matter, and every State member has to do its best in the recovering process. However, European leaders should be aware that aiming to a strong European identity is a pivotal element of such process, and that losing the Erasmus programme may also mean losing an exceptional tool to achieve it.