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European Commission - IP/96/878   02/10/1996

Other available languages: FR

Going to study, train  or teach in another country  in the European Union  is
full  of all  manner of  pitfalls  and little  problems.  The Commission  has
decided to put  an end to  this. In  a "Green Paper"   adopted  today on  the
initiative  of Edith  CRESSON,  the  commissioner responsible  for  research,
education and training,  in agreement  with Padraig  FLYNN, the  commissioner
for social  affairs,  and Mario  MONTI,  the  commissioner for  the  internal
market, the Commission  identifies the snags that  often discourage  mobility
among students,  teachers, researchers, training  volunteers and workers  and
proposes  nine  lines   of  action.  Creating   a  real   European  area   of
qualifications,  providing  everyone  studying  in  another  country  in  the
European  Union with  social protection  and  establishing  a legal  European
framework for trainees are just some of the examples.

The benefits of training, researching  or teaching in another country of  the
European Union are  undeniable. Transnational  mobility promotes  cooperation
with the  working world, opens  up the  possibilities of training  and study,
allows professional  skills  and knowledge  to  be  exchanged, and  helps  to
develop a sense  of initiative  and innovation. In  a nutshell,  it makes  it
easier to approach  the future, increases the overall level of qualifications
and thus contributes to competitiveness and employment.

But despite repeated calls from  the Commission, the European  Parliament and
the Council of  Ministers (since 1992 in the case of the Council) and despite
the fact that the free movement of persons is one of the cornerstones of  the
European  Union,  transnational mobility  of students,  teachers, researchers
and training workers is still pie in the sky.


For any  would-be candidate the  examples of little  snags are legion,  often
bordering on  the  absurd. Anyone  unemployed wishing  to train  or study  in
another Member  State, for example, loses  the right  to unemployment benefit
and social security if the  training exceeds three months. In  some countries
he cannot  even leave the  country without immediately  losing his  rights. A
young  graduate embarking  on a  training course  in other  Member States  is
clearly in a position of "unentitled" in that  he is no longer regarded as  a
student but  also not yet as  a worker. This legal  vacuum does not  give him
the right  to social  security and  can give  rise to  problems of  residence
permit if  the training course is  longer than three  months. Someone engaged
in voluntary service  in another Member  State, like  the European  voluntary
service launched by the  Commission on the initiative of Edith  Cresson, will
suffer  similar mishaps if  his or her stay  extends beyond  three months. In
some countries that person is even subject to the principle of taxation  even
though he is unpaid.

The barriers  linked to  taxation and  social security  contributions are  no
less  insurmountable.  They  are  particularly   dissuasive  for  researchers
receiving a  grant since their grants are cut  in half and even less by taxes
imposed in  some countries. The Commission  may have  rectified the situation
by picking up  these costs, but this  ad hoc formula has  the disadvantage of
draining on Community funds earmarked in principle solely for research.

Other examples  are: the  "territoriality" of  grants, meaning that  students
entitled  to a  national  grant lose  it when  they  pursue their  studies in
another country;  the  lack of  academic  recognition  by the  university  of
origin of  studies undertaken  abroad outside  Community  programmes such  as
ERASMUS; the problems  students have in meeting  the costs of their  stays in
another country,  which are not covered  by the generally very  modest grants
(ECU  75 per  month on average  for an  Erasmus grant). And  this despite the
fact that demand is constantly  increasing: 170 000 students  received grants
as  part of Erasmus  for the  1995-96 academic  year whereas this  figure was
only 3 000 in 1987-88.

Nine lines of action

The Green Paper,  which will be comprehensively reviewed  by the main parties
concerned in the coming months, puts forward nine lines of action:

-    a legal framework for  the situation of "student/trainee"  and volunteer
     in the European Union (EU) to solve the problems of social security  and
     taxation hampering mobility;

-    standard treatment  for researchers on  a grant  in the  all the  Member
     States, either through  the recognition of an identical condition or the
     application of similar measures throughout the Union;

-    social protection for anyone  wanting to travel in the Union as  part of
     training or  studying, this facility  already being  accorded to  people
     moving in the EU for the purposes of employment;

-    a European area of qualifications through mutual recognition  of studies
     and training courses in another Member State;

-    abolition of the "territoriality" of grants,  thereby allowing the least
     privileged to train or study in another Member State;

-    equal treatment  of EU  citizens  and  third county  nationals  residing
     legally in the Member States;

-    reduced socio-economic problems  by granting aid  to the  most needy  to
     enable them to undertake periods of training in other countries;

-    encouragement to learn languages, even those less widely spoken;

-    better  information on  existing  possibilities  and raising  of  public
     awareness of the advantages of mobility in training and studying.


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