The European Union celebrated 30 years of its Erasmus student exchange scheme on Tuesday, boasting the programme had fostered cross-border romances that may have borne a million children.
Telling a festive debate in the European Parliament that he “fell in love anew” with Europe whenever he travelled across the continent, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said:
“That also seems to have happened with some of those taking part in Erasmus, including in a more romantic sense. There are rumours there are even a million Erasmus babies.
“The Commission can’t take the credit for that, but I very much welcome this way of bringing Europe closer together.”
The celebrations in Strasbourg hailed the programme taking in its nine millionth student since its founding in 1987. Erasmus funding and networking help university students pursue some of their studies in other EU countries outside their homeland.
With the now 28-nation Union reeling from the blow dealt to 60 years of peaceful postwar integration by the unprecedented Brexit, the former Luxembourg premier urged member states to extend funding for the educational programme.
“Erasmus is a good response to the stupidity of selfish nationalisms and of turning inwards.”
The EU parliament’s Brexit negotiator, Guy Verhofstadt, said it was a “priority” in talks with London to ensure young Britons go on taking part in Erasmus after their country leaves the EU and that Britain’s universities be open to continental students.