Brussels, 24 January 2008
The European Commission has set up a new High Level Expert Forum on Mobility, and its inaugural meeting took place on 24 January 2008. The Forum will discuss extending the reach of the Erasmus exchange programme, increasing exchanges of young people, improving support for mobility in vocational training or adult learning, and raising the degree of movement by young artists, entrepreneurs, and volunteers.
In his opening statement, the Commissioner for Education, Training, Culture and Youth, Mr Ján Figel', explained the context of the Forum: "As the European Union progresses as a knowledge-based society in a globalising world economy, we must work to boost further the mobility of workers and citizens. This is not only good for the economy, but also for society. Europe needs a mobile and flexible workforce for its future economic prosperity, but mobility also breaks down barriers between Europeans, thereby helping to build a more cohesive European society". He stated that his decision to convene the group was inspired by the success of the Erasmus university exchange programme, which celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2007, but it also reflects his aim of widening the access to this successful programme.
The Commission operates a number of programmes in support of mobility, of which Erasmus is the best known. In its December 2007 paper on the strategic orientation for the EU's Lisbon Strategy 2008-2010, the Commission wrote that "Learning abroad can be an important stimulus for personal development and language skills. The Erasmus programme has enabled almost two million young Europeans to study abroad. More young people should be able to benefit from it so that, in time, it becomes a standard part of university education". Member States were invited to "link up national and regional programmes to the Erasmus programme to increase the number of students participating in international exchanges".
In November 2007, the Member States' education Ministers had discussed how to ensure that more of the student population could go on an Erasmus exchange. The aim is also to build mobility supports in other areas, among young people more generally. Programmes like Leonardo da Vinci (for vocational training), Comenius (for schools), and Grundtvig (for adults) are already partially dedicated to that.
The new High Level Expert Forum will take these issues further. The Forum has 11 members with expertise in relevant fields (the members are listed below). The Forum will be chaired by Professor Maria João Rodrigues of Portugal, who has been involved in the Lisbon strategy from its creation, and who has advised the Commission on a wide range of policy issues. Commissioner Figel' has asked the Forum to explore options and deliver a short strategic report in mid-2008.
Members of the Forum