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Erasmus Student or EU Ambassador? People-to-people Contact in the European Neighbourhood Policy: The Cases of Georgia, Ukraine and Tunisia

Andrea Perilli

This paper investigates to what extent and why the key action 1 of the Erasmus+ programme, namely learning mobility of individuals, can be considered a soft power’s instrument on European Neighbourhood countries. The core assumption is that due to people-to-people contact, Erasmus participants are most likely to become EU informal ambassadors, in the sense that they become carriers of EU soft power leading to changes in cultural and social perceptions. However, what will the place of Erasmus+ be in the ongoing debate on international cultural relations’ strategy? Erasmus+ can play a major role in this new strategy considering the huge growth of mobility flows between EU and ENP countries, since the new programme was launched. Moreover, EU institutions are looking for new strategic tools of public diplomacy. Have they realised that the external dimension of Erasmus+ lends itself to being one of these? Therefore, the topic of this work is of high interest because it is closely related to the debate about both the means and the ends of the EU external policy.For the sake of this research, three case studies, from different geographical regions neighbouring the EU, have been chosen: Tunisia, Ukraine and Georgia. A comparison among these three countries will reveal under which conditions Erasmus+ can be considered a soft power’s instrument. Hence, the identification of conditions applicable to all EU partner countries in order to evaluate whether the EU can spread its soft power through Erasmus+, represent the paper's added value which opens new avenues for further research on the topic.

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