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Creation of the Programme

The principle of creating a European Community ‘leader grant programme’ was considered at the first European Parliament/United States Congress Inter-parliamentary meeting held in Washington in May 1972, led by the Vice-President of the European Parliament and former Dutch Senator Dr. Willem SCHUIJT.

On his return, Dr. SCHUIJT reported that his group had encountered misunderstanding in Washington over the European Commission’s economic stance with the possibility of conflict as a result.  Subsequently, Dr. SCHUIJT suggested the creation of a scholarship programme for young Americans who would learn in Europe about Community integration through direct contacts, and firsthand experience.

Launching of the European Community’s Visitors Programme (ECVP)

In January 1973, the Parliament adopted a resolution establishing the programme as a means to “strengthening the links between the European Community and the United States”.  In this resolution, the Commission was invited to join forces in financing and running the proposed programme.

In February 1974 the President of the European Parliament Mr. BERKHOWER and Vice-President of the European Commisison Mr. SCARASCIA MUGNOZZA agreed to create an inter-institutional invitation programme for young US leaders.

The European Community’s Visitors Programme (ECVP) was officially launched on 1 April 1974.  Its Secretariat was headed by Mr. Camille BECKER of the European Commission, assisted by Mr. Peter BARKER-JONES of the European Parliament.

The ECVP, which was modelled on the US programme that had existed since World War II, invited American leaders to the then 9 countries of the Common Market on a 4 to 5-week study-tour.  In those early years, the itinerary of every visitor involved meetings at the EU institutions in Brussels and attendance at a plenary session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg as well as travel to 3 other member states.

Geographical and Numerical Expansion

1974: United States of America
In 1974, only 5 US visitors participated in the programme.
Since then and by the end of 2014, more than 850 American visitors participated in the programme.  American participants continue to make up the largest single-country group.

1977: Canada
In 1977, driven by the Institutions’ desire to negotiate a framework agreement with Canada, the programme was accordingly extended and used as a tool to achieve certain political and economic objectives.  The Press and Information Office in Ottawa therefore proposed a certain number of candidates who were directly linked to the implementation of this agreement.

1977: Latin America
In July 1974 at the first European Community/Latin America Inter-parliamentary Conference held in Bogotá, the Members of the European Parliament proposed the creation of a separate study programme for young Latin Americans.
In 1977, the Parliament started the Latin American Visitors Programme, also known as the LAVP, with 2 participants from Guatemala and Argentina.  In 1978, it was decided that the Commission of the European Communities would also participate as from 1979.
With a joint budget for the ECVP and the LAVP, it was envisaged that the two Programmes, at a later stage, would be jointly run by one Steering Committee.

In 1983, an enlarged ECVP definitively included the Latin American region, thus covering both North and South America.

1983: Australia and New Zealand
In 1983, the ECVP programme was also extended to include 2 visitors from Australia and 1 from New Zealand.
This was again driven by political and economic motives.  Australia and New Zealand had encountered difficulties exporting their agricultural and industrial products to the Common Market, which they attributed to the accession of the United Kingdom to the Community.

1984: Japan
The following year - in 1984 - the ECVP was extended to 3 Japanese participants. Over 250 Japanese visitors participated in the programme in the past 40 years.

1990: ASEAN, China, South Korea, EFTA, Turkey and Yugoslavia
It was first suggested to include ASEAN countries in the programme in 1979 in view of the opening of the Commission’s Delegation in Bangkok.  Nevertheless, it took another 11 years before this vision could become reality.
At the same time, the Committee felt that the basic infrastructure of the ECVP might reasonably handle some more visitors, both from third countries already participating and from other geographical areas where there was a need to improve relations and to promote a better understanding of the Community.
The number of allocations was therefore increased to 90 in 1990 in order to cover a wider geographical spread.

1993: Further Geographical and Numerical Expansion
In 1993, the number of visitors was further increased to 150.
The EUVP peaked at 210 participants between 1999 and 2001, with a particular emphasis on visitors coming from the candidate countries waiting to gain entry into the European Union in May 2004.

The number of participants was reduced as a result of budgetary cuts and staff reductions to 165 paid visitors in 2004. This figure was again increased to 180 in 2005 and to 190 in 2006.

2007: European Neighborhood Policy
In 2007, in accordance with the European Neighborhood Policy, the number of visitors drawn from the regions concerned was increased and the EUVP welcomed 200 participants in total.

In 2018, the EUVP welcomed 155 participants from across the world.
And the number will keep increasing every year.

2020 – 2021:
During the outbreak of the pandemic of the Covid-19, the EUVP smoothly adapted to the new reality and organised over 200 virtual programmes for its Participants from all over the world. Moreover, new online Alumni engagement activities have been introduced: EUVP Alumni webinars dedicated to the EU’s strategic policies and organised since then three times per year, as well as online conversations with EUVP Alumni dedicated to specific countries / topics. The EUVP also launched its online community for the EUVP Alumni and the EU colleagues to reinforce the spirit of networking and knowledge-sharing beyond the official length of the programme.

The EUVP welcomed 190 Participants from 53 countries, despite obstacles such as travel restrictions still in place in some countries. A new element was also added to the EUVP programme – the visit to Paris, France and to the House of Jean Monnet in Bazoches-sur-Guyonne. Moreover, a pilot visit to the financial institutions in Frankfurt, Germany, was organised in October in cooperation with the Goethe-Institut Visitors’ Programme.