The history of Erasmus+: fostering connections across the EU and Georgia
May 27, 2024

The history of Erasmus+: fostering connections across the EU and Georgia


You may have seen the KA1 combination before, but have you delved deeper into its meaning? What can the combination of these two letters and a number mean? Do they tell you anything? What about if we add Erasmus+ to this combination? Now it’s hinting at something more, right?

Erasmus+ as a power of community

Erasmus+ exchange programmes are outstanding project networks, creating and enhancing cooperation and connections among young people from a plethora of different countries, cultures, and social backgrounds. They started in 1987, and for more than 35 years, they have given millions of people unlimited opportunities to enjoy unique experiences and insights, giving them access to cultures and traditions of various nations, and most importantly bringing people — peers representing the power of community — closer together. By strengthening links between these individuals, the programme opens the way for youth to have a better, brighter future – a future which builds on the millennia-old, shared past between the young people of Georgia and Europe. Such programmes have united young people on all levels and, by enhancing the awareness of common European values, they have laid the foundation for the achievement of the EU’s goals. These aspects clearly affect our local community – developing and strengthening more and more as time goes by, and many personal experiences reflect this.

Erasmus+ Key Action 1 – KA1: Statistics 

Action is at the core of Erasmus+ programmes, thus propelling individuals to want to learn something new, with actions that can benefit their societies in the future. As such, programmes are offered to numerous people, giving them unique opportunities to develop themselves and create positive change in their local communities. Nonetheless, they cannot act without movement or mobility – as these are the main factors in how knowledge is spread and experience is gained. Movement, as stated by Ilia Chavchavadze, a prominent Georgian writer and public figure in the 19th century, is the essence of one’s existence, with the following words: “Movement and only movement is the impetus to the country’s efforts and life.” As such, both action and mobility form the essence of Erasmus+ and this is codified in its very acronym: The European Community Action Scheme for Mobility of University Students. 

The objectives of Erasmus+ are to be implemented through three “key actions”, one of which is the famous Key Action 1 (KA1): Learning mobility of individuals. KA1 represents an opportunity to actively involve both students and staff from Georgia. It supports youth engagement in a variety of areas, with language-learning opportunities, virtual exchanges, and much more. For KA1, five sectors have been identified, engaging participants from Georgia and Europe alike. According to 2022 statistics, the top three are: higher education (39%), vocational education and training (28%), and youth (22%). 

In Georgia, there are two such fields: higher education and youth, covering learners and staff alike, both from Georgia and European states. From 2014 to 2022, more than 40,000 people have benefited from Erasmus+ KA1 in Georgia – both Georgians going abroad and other Europeans coming to Georgia – thus showing how physical distance is an obstacle that can be overcome: 

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Figure 1: Learners and staff to/from partner countries: KA1 Data 2014-2022

As the above graph shows, the number of outgoing participants and numbers of incoming participants to Georgia are almost equal on both sides. Higher education students can study or train while staff can do the same abroad. The top three European countries receiving Georgians are Germany, Poland, and Spain while Armenia, Germany, and Poland are the top three for students coming to Georgia.

Connections across the EU and Georgia: personal experiences

During Erasmus+ programmes, a chain of bonds is formed, which grows and develops further after completion, and in the end, fosters mutual understanding and cooperation between young people. There are plenty of examples to be found, which show comprehensive connections established between participants in Georgian society and beyond. These can be seen by highlighting the stories of two young people: Mariam Ketsbaia – a Young European Ambassador from Georgia, who has been in various European countries with Erasmus+ exchange programmes multiple times, and André Lima Machado from Portugal, who came to Georgia, benefiting twice from these programmes: 

Erasmus+ youth exchanges are close to Mariam Ketsbaia’s heart, and she stresses that they gave her “a chance to meet people from diverse backgrounds and to help build connections with them. This is usually done through various activities that [are] done during the programme. This was the case for the Erasmus+ Training Course in Slovakia. We had the chance to see similarities between the nations, people, cultures and find a mutual understanding over topics of the project.” She believes that “this fruitful exchange of ideas and knowledge follows us even after the programme ends, because our connections last for decades. “ 

Georgia as seen from Portugal is completely different from conventional ideas, if we believe what André Lima Machado says. To him physical distance, the main obstacle, has led to very little direct contact between the two nations at the westernmost and easternmost points of Europe, but through Erasmus+ programmes circumstances changed drastically: “[I often found myself] in situations where I witnessed people that knew next to zero about Georgia. Suddenly the curtain was lifted, and they discovered this amazing country and its people, getting more in touch with local realities and understanding common aspects that unite us. I have seen a Latin dancer wanting passionately to learn Georgian dancing. I have seen people wanting to return to Georgia countless times. I have seen people planning on getting together once again after the projects end.”

Conversations on several topics promote mutual understanding and cooperation where young people have the opportunity “to engage in meaningful discussions and share their personal experiences and views on topics, find common ground and solutions for problems that we face during communication, for instance”, as Mariam says. André highlights that there are two things that young people need: correct circumstances and reason. Erasmus+ brings circumstance, by creating conditions in which young people from the EU and Georgia can be face-to-face, side-by-side; and reason, through which activities direct people into interacting with each other. Out of this, dialogue evolves, like a tree, growing branches, leaves and flowers, creating something beautiful.”

Erasmus+ programmes promote cross-cultural exchange and dialogue between youth from different backgrounds, which have a long-term impact on EU-Georgia relations. “In a multicultural environment, we not only discover new aspects of cultures we are already familiar with, but also rediscover our own while representing it,” says Mariam, who adds that such exchanges “raise awareness about our countries and culture, [break] stigmas, [create] deep connections and the ground for future collaboration”. 

André thinks that talking and sharing experiences between EU and Georgian youth “makes both sides much more aware of the reality in both countries. In a world overflowing with information, that is often misleading, this is gold and something that creates bridges.” He adds that young participating in these projects will inevitably impact their surroundings, and “in the long run, Erasmus+ programme is creating a generation that feels closer to Europe, that yearns for the EU and that values international cooperation and peace.”

Young people who have benefited from Erasmus+ are empowered individuals, who share common values, delve deeper into each other’s languages and cultures, establish friendships, construct an unbroken chain of connections, laying down and fostering the foundation for calm, united, and harmonious cooperation.

Sources:

  1. Erasmus+ mobility data for Key Action 1 in 2022
  2. Erasmus to Erasmus+: history, funding and future
  3. What is the structure of the Erasmus+ Programme?
  4. Erasmus Plus KA1 > How Does it Work?
  5. Erasmus+ annual report 2022



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