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MEMO/07/460

Brussels, 15 November 2007

Education, Youth Affairs and Culture Council, Brussels, 15-16 November 2007

The EU Education, Youth Affairs and Culture Council will meet on 15-16 November 2007 in Brussels. This memo presents some background information on the agenda points to be covered in this Council, together with a brief indication of the outcomes that the European Commission expects.

EDUCATION

3. Proposal for a Recommendation of the European Parliament and of the Council on the establishment of the European Qualifications Framework for lifelong learning

Background

The proposal adopted by the Commission in September 2006 aims to promote mobility and lifelong learning. It provides for the establishment of a European qualifications framework as a translation grid, whose core is eight reference levels of learning outcomes which describe what a learner knows, understands and is able to do.

It has been improved from its original draft by the amendments from the Member States and the EP - for example on quality assurance and on credit systems. The implementation dates are 2010 for countries to relate their qualifications systems to the EQF and 2012 for qualifications to carry a reference to the appropriate EQF level.

The European Parliament voted at first reading on 24 October to adopt the EQF. It is expected that the Council will agree to the Parliament’s position and formally co-sign the Recommendation in early 2008.

At this Council

The Commission will report on the good legislative progress of the EQF and the plans for its implementation. The European Commissioner for Education, Training, Culture and Youth, Mr Ján Figel', will encourage countries to implement the EQF.

4. Draft conclusions of the Council and of the Representatives of the Governments of the Member States, meeting within the Council, on improving the quality of teacher education

  • Adoption of conclusions

Background

The Council Conclusions respond to the Commission Communication "Improving the Quality of Teacher Education" of 3 August 2007 (COM(2007)392 final).

That Communication set out proposals to improve the quality of teacher education in the EU. High-quality teaching is a prerequisite for high-quality education and training, which are in turn a powerful determinant of Europe’s long-term competitiveness and capacity to create more jobs and growth.

The Conclusions set out a range of actions that could be taken by Member States, within the framework of their responsibilities, in the field of initial teacher training and qualifications, early career support, professional development, developing schools as "learning centres", helping teachers develop new competences to deal with new challenges, and supporting transnational mobility for teachers, student teachers and teacher educators.

The Conclusions also invite the Member States and the Commission to intensity their policy cooperation and to make use of EU programmes, in order to support the actions of the Member States.

At this Council

It is expected that the Council will adopt the text of the Conclusions.

5. Draft Council Resolution on "Education and Training" as a key driver of the Lisbon Strategy

Background

With the first cycle of the reformed Lisbon strategy coming to an end, reflections have started on the priorities for the period 2008-2010. According to the plans of the Portuguese presidency, this will also be discussed at the December European Council. On this background, the Council underlines that education and training play a key role in Europe’s response to the challenges of demography, globalisation and the development of the knowledge society. It calls for a better visibility of education and training in the overall Lisbon strategy by improving the links to areas such as research, enterprise, innovation, employment and social affairs and by making full use of the results of the “Education and Training 2010” work programme.

At this Council

The Commission welcomes the adoption of the Council resolution and underlines the importance of the three main messages of the Commission Communication “Delivering lifelong learning for knowledge, creativity and innovation“ adopted on 12 November:

  1. Skills levels need to be raised. There are still too many early school leavers, the participation of the low skilled and older workers is still too low, and the skills achievement among migrants is poor in most countries.
  2. Despite progress in the development of lifelong learning strategies in many countries, and good progress in areas such as the development of qualifications frameworks, the implementation of such strategies represents a big challenge.
  3. In order to achieve a well functioning 'knowledge triangle' comprising education, research and innovation, excellence in higher education and university-business partnerships need to be further promoted. It also must be ensured that all education and training sectors, not only higher education, play their full role in promoting creativity and innovation.

6. Draft Council Resolution on "New skills for new jobs"

Background

In the context of the broader discussion on the European strategy to promote jobs and growth, this resolution emphasises practical steps to be taken in the area of education and training in order to provide citizens with better opportunities to succeed on the labour market. The emphasis is on three points: 1. equipping people with the skills necessary for new jobs; 2. the importance of work on the validation of competences, the transparency of qualifications and the identification of training needs, and 3. the need for a better anticipation of skills needs and gaps on the labour market.

At this Council

The Commission welcomes the adoption of this resolution and shares the view on the importance of the implementation of the European Qualifications Framework, Europass and the principles for the validation of non-formal and informal learning. It also welcomes the idea of making efforts to improve the current systems for the identification of future skills needs, including at the level of particular sectors.

8. Proposal for a Decision of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing an action programme for the enhancement of quality in higher education and the promotion of intercultural understanding through co-operation with third countries (Erasmus Mundus)

Background

The Erasmus Mundus programme started in 2004 to promote European higher education as a centre of excellence in the world. In the first three academic years (2004-2006), more than 2,300 students participated in the programme, and over 1,800 were selected to start their studies in Europe in September this year.

On 12 July 2007, the European Commission adopted a proposal to launch the new generation of the Erasmus Mundus programme for the period 2009-13.

The new Erasmus Mundus II programme builds on the current programme by aiming to become the EU reference programme for cooperation with third countries in this area. The new programme differs from its predecessor by widening its scope: (1) the new Programme will give more opportunities and variety to the institutional cooperation modalities between European and third-country universities and in the individual mobility scheme; (2) Erasmus Mundus will be extended to include doctoral studies and, partially, undergraduate studies too; (3) It will receive stronger financial support for European students with more attractive scholarships.

Over a period of five years, just over 950 million euros will be available for European and third-country universities to join forces in joint programmes or collaborative partnerships, and to grant scholarships to European and third-country students for an international study experience.

At this Council

At previous meetings with the Commission the Council Education Committee has been very supportive of the Commission's proposal for Erasmus Mundus II, for which it had its first reading during the autumn of 2007. National delegations have shown a keen interest in the further development of the programme and the maintenance of its excellence brand. The Commission expects the few remaining issues, which mainly concern questions about the selection of grantees under the scheme, to be solved at this Council.

The new programme should then be adopted jointly by the Council and the European Parliament in 2008, and enter into force in January 2009 when the current programme expires. This timing will avoid any disruption of cooperation activities during the transition from the current to the future programme.

10. Student mobility: broadening the social dimension of Erasmus

Background

The Erasmus programme celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2007. More than 1.7 million students and over 200,000 university staff have participated in it so far. The total number of students is still increasing every year and should reach 200,000 annually by 2012. As the European Union celebrated its 50th birthday earlier this year, Erasmus was widely cited as one of the "Top Ten" benefits which citizens have derived from their country's membership.

For 2007-2013, the budget of Erasmus, agreed in co-decision between the Council and the European Parliament, amounts to € 3 billion. This is far less than the European Commission proposed in order for the students to be given sufficiently high mobility grants.

Strong and continually increasing demand, coupled with inadequate budgets, has meant that even though the overall budget for Erasmus has grown consistently over the years, the average student grant has remained modest. In the last academic year for which figures are available (2005/6), it stood at just € 157 per month. Furthermore, this average masks enormous variations from country to country (from € 100 to € 500 per month in 2005/6). The average grant is set to reach an average of at least € 200 in every country over the entire lifespan of the new lifelong learning programme, of which Erasmus is part. But for most students even that will not be enough to cover the additional costs caused by spending a period studying in another country. Nonetheless, in several European countries and regions, the Erasmus grants are considerably complemented by other public funds, so that the actual grant available to students is often much higher than the Community grant alone.

Concerns that Erasmus risks being a programme merely for a socio-economic elite are not new, but have accompanied the programme ever since its launch in 1987.

A study commissioned by the European Commission in 2006 showed that the socio-economic profile of Erasmus students does not vary very substantially from that of the student population as a whole, except in one respect: among Erasmus students there is a higher incidence of students with at least one parent having undergone higher education studies. The profile has not changed significantly since the start of Erasmus, despite the sharp increase in mobility. However, the study also concludes that almost one in five (19%) Erasmus students consider their financial situation while abroad to be poor or very poor. 55% of the Erasmus students see their grant as having been insufficient, and over half report knowing friends who have been deterred from participating due to financial constraints.

Taking these concerns into account, the Portuguese Presidency has started an initiative to draw attention to the need to ensure that access to Erasmus student mobility grants is not conditioned by the availability of sufficient own financial means to go abroad.

As a first step, a major conference organised by the Presidency in Lisbon on 4-5 October 2007 to mark the closing of the 20th Anniversary celebrations of Erasmus has strengthened the awareness of the social dimension of mobility.

At this Council

The Commission welcomes the Presidency’s initiative, of which the discussion at this Council meeting is part. The public debate will help to raise the Member States' awareness on the need to provide more complementary funding to ensure that all students, whatever their social background or financial means, have free and equal access to the benefits which Erasmus offers. The Commission encourages Member States to adopt best practice, in the form of complementary grant schemes from national sources. These have been put in place by national or regional authorities in several countries. The Commission also urges those Member States which have not done so, to make their national grants and loans for students fully ‘portable’ for use during study abroad.

MEETING ON FRIDAY 16 (10:00) NOVEMBER 2007

CULTURE

11. First EU-Russia Permanent Partnership Council (Lisbon, 25 October 2007) - - Outcome of the PPC and exchange of views on future cooperation EU-Russia in the field of Culture

Background

The Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) with Russia of 1997 established an institutional framework for regular consultations between the European Union and Russia, including EU-Russia Summits at Head of State level.

At Ministerial level is the Permanent Partnership Council (PPC), established to allow Ministers to meet as often as necessary and in a variety of formats to discuss specific issues. PPCs have so far been held in the format of Foreign Ministers, Justice and Home Affairs Ministers, Energy Ministers, Transport Ministers and Environment Ministers. This is the first time that such an event takes place in the field of culture.

It is part of the 4th Common Space with Russia and the Culture Road-Map, whose objectives are:

  • to promote a structured approach to cultural cooperation between the enlarged EU and Russia, to foster the creativity and mobility of artists, public access to culture, the dissemination of art and culture, inter-cultural dialogue and knowledge of the history and cultural heritage of the peoples of Europe.
  • to strengthen and enhance the European identity on the basis of common values, including freedom of expression, democratic functioning of the media, respect for human rights including the rights of persons belonging to minorities, and promotion of cultural and linguistic diversity as a basis for vitality of civil society in Europe without dividing lines.
  • to develop cooperation between the cultural industries of the EU and Russia in order to increase both their cultural and economic impact.

The process of institutionalised cultural cooperation was initiated in the wake of the Kajaani Conference held under Finnish Presidency on 18-19 September 2006, aimed at paving the way for the implementation of the 4th Common Space with Russia and the Culture Road-Map on culture contained therein.

The Joint Statement adopted during the first meeting of the first Permanent Partnership Council (PPC) on culture, which took place in Lisbon on 25 October 2007, under the auspices of the Portuguese Presidency of the EU, is a first concrete step in this cooperation.

In the future a comprehensive cooperation Action Plan will detail the concrete cooperation actions the EU and Russia intend to undertake in the field of culture.

At this Council

The Council will take stock of the advancement of cultural cooperation between the EU and Russia, it will also examine future avenues for its enhancement.

12. Draft Council Resolution on a European agenda for culture

Background

On 10 May 2007, the Commission proposed a new policy stance in the area of culture, entitled "A European agenda for culture in a globalising world". The policy statement, which took the form of a Commission Communication[1], presents three major objectives that together form a cultural strategy for the European Institutions, the Member States, and the cultural and creative sector: (1) to promote cultural diversity and intercultural dialogue; (2) to promote culture as a catalyst for creativity in the framework of the Lisbon Strategy for creating more jobs and growth in the EU; and (3) to promote culture as a vital element in the Union's international relations.

One of the fundamental features of this new policy strategy is the introduction of a more structured system of cooperation among the Member States and the EU institutions on cultural matters. The mechanism is based on the 'open method of coordination' (OMC) that has been successfully used to structure the collaboration of Member States and EU in the area of education & training, youth and social protection. The method will be applied using a flexible approach suited to the cultural field, while fully respecting Member States' competences. Progress towards the common goals will be reviewed every three years by the Commission and the Member States.

At this Council

The Commission looks forward to the Council's endorsement of this, the first-ever European Agenda for Culture.

13. Recommendation for a Council Decision on the European Capital of Culture event for the year 2011

Background

In accordance with Decision 1622/2006/EC Finland and Estonia were entitled to make proposals of cities for the 2011 European Capital of Culture title. Finland proposed Turku, and Estonia proposed Tallinn.

The appointed selection panel assessed the proposals against the criteria of the action and issued a report in June 2007.

On the basis of an overall evaluation of the applications the panel - while issuing a few suggestions to both cities - reached a consensus to recommend to the EU Institutions that Tallinn and Turku host the European Capital of Culture in 2011.

The panel’s report was forwarded to the Institutions in June 2007. The European Parliament had 3 months to transmit an opinion to the Commission if necessary. The EP's Committee on Culture and Education sent a letter to DG EAC in September, as a follow up to the panel’s report, to highlight the relevant aspects of the exchange of views it had on this matter.

The Commission adopted its recommendation on 25 October 2007 on the basis of the panel report forward it to the Council.

At this Council

On the basis of the Commission's recommendation, the Council is expected to designate officially Turku and Tallinn as European Capitals of Culture for 2011.

YOUTH

14. Draft Resolution of the Council and the Representatives of the Governments of the Member States, meeting within the Council, on implementing the common objectives for voluntary activities of young people

Background

The Resolution of the Council on voluntary activities of young people to be adopted on 16 November 2007 is a swift follow-up to the Commission's Communication of 5 September 2007. It confirms and adapts the four common objectives for voluntary activities of young people – to develop, to facilitate, to recognise and to promote – agreed by the Council of Youth Ministers in 2001.

Thus the method of cooperation applied to voluntary activities of young people – the open method of coordination, is confirmed and strengthened. By this method the Member States set themselves common objectives and report to the Commission on how they are implemented in each country.

In the Resolution Member States agree to reflect upon practical means of measuring progress and to undertake peer learning activities to strengthen the implementation of the common objectives.

Member States are also willing to discuss the need for additional instruments for promoting voluntary activities.

At this Council

Debate is not expected. Commission will orally welcome the adoption of the Resolution.

15. Draft conclusions of the Council and of the Representatives of the Governments of the Member States, meeting within the Council, on a transversal approach to youth policy with a view to enabling young people to fulfil their potential and participate actively in society

Background

In the Communication "Promoting young people's full participation in education, employment and society" of 5 September 2007 the Commission proposed a transversal approach to youth policy. This approach will be endorsed by the Youth Ministers in Council Conclusions in their meeting on 16 November 2007.

The Conclusions themselves are the result of a transversal approach, as they have been drafted in cooperation with the Council committee in charge of social questions.

In the Conclusions the Council supports the Commission's view that investment in youth must start early and must follow a transversal approach. It also follows the Commission's line as regards the reinforcement of the structured dialogue with young people whose key messages will be transmitted to the European Council.

The Council underlines the importance of different forms of education – from formal to non formal and entrepreneurship education - as well as the European Youth Pact in addressing young people's transitions into the labour market and integration in society in general.

At this Council

Debate is not expected. Commission will orally welcome the adoption of the Conclusions and highlight its importance for the shaping of youth policies.

16. Better consideration of youth issues in the implementation of the Lisbon strategy - Implementing the European Youth Pact

Background

This debate gives the opportunity to deepen the discussion on the importance given to the young people‘s transition into employment, such as highlighted in the Commission’s Communication and the conclusions of the Council.

This debate is timely organised in view of the revision of the Lisbon Integrated Guidelines for Growth and Jobs.

This debate can also contribute to reinforce the youth dimension in the Lisbon process and improve the implementation of the European Youth Pact.

At the moment the European Union notes encouraging results for employment in general, but youth unemployment, at 17% in the EU, remains a major challenge - despite the fact that all Member States have given a clear priority to youth in their National Reform Programmes (NRP) for 2007.

As underlined in the Presidency paper, there is a need to give more attention to youth in the NRPs, to implement national and regional strategies for youth in line with the European Youth Pact, and to increase the monitoring.

At the European level, the Communication proposes a strategic and cross-sectoral approach, as well as closer coordination between the different fields of interest for young people.

At this Council

The Presidency has prepared a background paper and two questions for discussion.

The two questions are the following:

  • “In view of the revision of the integrated guidelines for “Growth and Jobs” what kind of sustainable measures could be developed to enable a new working method to achieve the Lisbon strategy’s objectives on youth?”
  • In your opinion, which instruments could be useful to improve the implementation and monitoring of the European Youth Pact, as this policy process inscribed in the Lisbon strategy for “growth and jobs” offers the highest potential to make progress towards the better “social and professional integration of young people”.

17. Any other business

(b) Applications regarding the European Capital of Culture event for the year 2012 - Information from the Portuguese and Slovenian delegations

Background

Portugal and Slovenia are entitled to make proposals of cities for the 2012 European Capital of Culture title.

The proposals have to be received formally by the Council, the EP, the Commission and the Committee of the Regions before 31/12/2007.

In accordance with the Decision regarding the Capitals, the Commission will convene the relevant panel by spring 2008. The panel will have to assess the proposals against the objectives and criteria of the action, particularly the European dimension of the event.

The Council will have to designate the 2012 European Capitals of Culture in November 2008, on the basis of a Commission recommendation.

At this Council

Portugal and Slovenia will provide information about their respective proposals for 2012.

(c) Events organised during the Portuguese Presidency in the field of Education - - Closing Conference of the 20th Anniversary of the Erasmus Programme

Background

The Lisbon conference brought together some 900 participants from 36 countries, including 29 of the 31 countries participating in Erasmus under the Lifelong Learning Programme (LLP). Participants included several hundred current Erasmus students studying in Portugal, and former Portuguese Erasmus students. Keynote speeches were delivered by Commissioner Figel’, Director General Mrs. Quintin (Education and Culture DG), and the Portuguese Minister of Education Mr. Gago. There were video messages from Commission President Barroso, former Commission President Mr. Delors, and the Commissioner at the time of the adoption of Erasmus, Mr. Marin. Key European organisations, in particular representing the student community (the European Students’ Union and the Erasmus Student Network) gave their views on the programme.

The conference served as a platform for celebrating the achievements of Erasmus, presenting the findings of recent analyses of the programme (socio-economic profile of students; professional impact of Erasmus participation) and discussing challenges for the programme’s future.

At this Council

The Presidency will make a presentation of the Lisbon conference it organised to mark the 20th anniversary of the Erasmus Programme.

(i) EU-China Joint Declarations in the field of culture and education - Information from the Commission

Background

On 22 October, Mr Ján Figel', European Commissioner for Education, Training, Culture and Youth met Mr Zhou Ji, Minister for Education for the People's Republic of China. At this meeting, the European Commission and the Government of the People's Republic of China issued a Joint Declaration expressing their wish to reinforce cooperation in the fields of (1) education and vocational training, and (2) culture. The Joint Declarations aim to set up structured policy dialogue on education & training and culture matters. On the education & training side, this will help further mutual recognition of degrees and diplomas of accredited higher education institutions between China and the Member States of the EU, taking into account the Commission's competences in the area. On the culture side, this will lead to exchanges of best practice and the promotion of cultural diversity, the cultural industries and other jointly-identified relevant issues.

At this Council

The Commission will be giving the Council information on the Joint Declaration.


[1] http://ec.europa.eu/culture/eac/communication/comm_en.html


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