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'One million babies' spawned by EU student exchanges

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(BRUSSELS) - It gives new meaning to the phrase "European Union".

The Erasmus student exchange scheme has brought so many couples together from across the continent that it has led to the birth of one million babies, the EU said Monday.

A study of the programme's impact since its launch in 1987 showed that 27 percent of people who took part had met their current life partner during their stay abroad.

Thirty-three percent of Erasmus students hooked up with people of a different nationality than their own, nearly three times (13 percent) the rate of students who had not travelled.

That had created something of an EU baby boom, the bloc said as it released the results of the study.

Androulla Vassiliou, the European Commissioner for education, said that the EU "estimates that around one million babies are likely to have been born to Erasmus couples since 1987".

European Commission spokeswoman Pia Ahrenkilde Hansen said it was a "touching little figure" that showed the scheme "creates a lot of positive things".

"It is a great encouragement to young people to go and live abroad and open up to all the opportunities that exist if you are willing," Hansen added.

- Go forth and multiply -

But the EU insisted the programme achievements went beyond spawning dual-nationality babies -- creating jobs as well as population growth.

With unemployment affecting one in five young people in a Europe increasingly gripped by economic stagnation, the EU said the Erasmus scheme also played a vital role in increasing the job prospects of students who took part.

"We can see from this impact study that young people who have been part of the Erasmus programme are less likely to experience long-term unemployment," Hansen said.

Famous names to have gone through the scheme include Italian Foreign Minister and incoming EU diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini, a member of what Prime Minister Matteo Renzi calls the up-and-coming "Erasmus generation".

Mogherini did a thesis on Islam and politics while on an Erasmus exchange in Aix-en-Provence, France.

In total, three million students and 350,000 teachers have taken part in the scheme, the EU said.

A further four million people will get support from Erasmus to train or study abroad over the EU's next budget period until 2020.

The study surveyed 80,000 students and organisations, the biggest ever of its kind.

Erasmus involves the 28 European Union states plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland and Turkey.

The scheme is named after the Dutch philosopher Desiderius Erasmus (1466 - 1536), who travelled around Europe during the Renaissance to further humanist thinking.

Erasmus Impact Study: key findings

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