Comment: Erasmus vital for Italy-UK ties

ROME - The results of an SWG survey, commissioned by the British Embassy, show that the traditional friendship between Italy and the UK is stronger than ever. This is especially the case among young Italians, with 93 percent of those interviewed aged 18 to 24 considering their experience of the UK to be positive.

 Many of those young people spent time in the UK thanks to the wonderful Erasmus scholarship system that has allowed millions of young people within the EU to learn about the culture of another member state by studying abroad.

 Prof. David Petrie, the campaigning head of the foreign lecturers union Allsi, concurs, saying that he never met a student of his at Verona University who returned disappointed from a UK Erasmus sojourn.

 Here at the Italian Insider we can report that the obverse also is true. Several dozen British students from the universities of Oxford, Durham, Cambridge and elsewhere have worked at the Insider on Erasmus scholarships since the newspaper was founded nine years ago.

 Their overwhelming verdict on the peninsula though working on an English-language newspaper in Italy has been enthusiastic. The only downside faced by the Erasmus student journalists was poor security in Rome. Four students were mugged during their stints here, two of them on their first day in Rome, while another fled the country on the advice of Italian police after being stalked.

 But even most of those unfortunate students on our team acknowledged they had let their guard down in the Eternal City in a way they wouldn’t have done in London or Glasgow.

 We now have the pleasure at the Insider of seeing our alumnus Erasmus students from a decade ago snaffling sought-after jobs in journalism at media such as ITN, the Sunday Times and the Daily Mail.

 British Ambassador Jill Morris deserves praise for commissioning the SWG survey, and for keeping Italians and expats constantly informed about the prospect of Brexit. Britain’s future remains highly uncertain. Only a year ago Ms Morris was telling expats that a second referendum was impossible. Now it appears a distinct possibility.

 Whatever the outcome of the Brexit drama, it is to be hoped that Erasmus will be retained by future UK governments. At a time when xenophobic parties are on the rise, Erasmus represents a precious investment for future generations both in Italy, the British Isles and throughout Europe.