New Delhi: India is a major focus of France’s presidency of the European Union, and deepening political relations between the 27-nation bloc and New Delhi should go hand-in-hand with greater people-to-people ties, French Ambassador Emmanuel Lenain has said.

The envoy also called for “greater academic mobility” between India and the European Union, saying that would be the “best investment” in the future of the partnership.

Lenain was speaking at an event on Friday evening to mark the 35th anniversary of the European Union (EU) Erasmus-plus programme that was established in 1987 to support education for students from across the globe as well as to encourage partnerships between universities.

The French envoy said more than 6,000 Indian students have travelled to Europe to date under the Erasmus programme, adding it showed how much the EU values student mobility with India.

“For the last two years, France has been the country welcoming the highest number of Erasmus scholarship holders, and we are very proud of it,” Lenain said.

“India is a major focus of France’s ongoing presidency of the Council of the EU. France strongly believes that the deepening political relations between the EU and India should go hand-in-hand with greater academic mobility and people-to-people ties,” he said.

The French envoy further said: “It is the best investment we can make in the future of the EU-India partnership.”

In January, France took over the presidency of the Council of the European Union (EU) from Slovenia.

This year, the EU and India are celebrating 60 years of strategic partnership. Underlining that the mobility of students and researchers forms an important dimension of this relationship, Ambassador of the EU to India and Bhutan Ugo Astuto said more and more Indian students are looking at the possibility of studying in Europe.

“I am happy to share that 143 Indian students have been awarded Erasmus Mundus scholarships for higher education in Europe. This builds on the success of the last two years when Indian students were the top recipients of the EU Erasmus-plus scholarships among 167 countries,” he said.

“More and more Indian students are looking at the possibility of studying in the EU, exploring its world-class academic institutes, attending courses in two or more European countries, gaining exposure to diverse cultures,” he added.

The event was attended by more than 250 Indian beneficiaries of the Erasmus+ programme, which included students, researchers, academics and business people.

Representatives from the EU member states, Indian partner institutions, and several experts participated in the festivities.

The Erasmus, meaning the European Region Action Scheme for the Mobility of University Students, supports education, training, youth and sport, according to a joint press statement by the French embassy and the EU in India.

“With a budget of Euro 26.2 billion (Rs 20,96,94 crore) for the 2021-2027 period, this is the largest programme in the world for student mobility and also an important project for collaborative funding,” it said.

“With this programme, the EU wants to enhance academic and youth mobility and cooperation among European Union members but also with other regions in the world, especially Asia,” the statement said.

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