Speech by Mrs Viviane Reding
Member of the European Commission, responsible for Education and Culture
To the European Parliament Committee on Culture, Youth, Education, the Media and Sport
Brussels, 25 January 2001
These are testing times and I should first of all like to thank you for your involvement, for your contribution to the policies for which I am responsible. Complex and important dossiers were completed last year with your help. I will not go into detail: we have already had several opportunities to exchange views.
I should today like to draw your attention to the challenges the new century brings and the huge opportunities it opens up.
2001 starts with the implementation of the new MEDIA Plus programme to support the training of professionals and the development, transnational distribution and promotion of European audiovisual works and ventures.
MEDIA Plus, which thanks in particular to the support of the European Parliament and the efforts of the French Presidency will have a budget of EUR 400 million for the period 2001-2005, comes into force just as the MEDIA II programme ends, thus permitting a continuum and a smooth transition between the two programmes in the interests of European professionals. I should like once again to thank the Committee on Culture, Youth, Education, the Media and Sport, and particularly Mrs Hieronimy, your rapporteur, for its active and constructive support in examining and adopting the decisions establishing the MEDIA Plus programme; moreover, this was achieved within a very tight schedule.
The European policy of support and funding will henceforth have a greater impact thanks to the strong involvement of the EIB-EIF group in the funding of the European audiovisual sector.
Just after the Lisbon European Council last May, the President, Mr Maystadt, and I met to examine how the European audiovisual sector is to play its full part in the information and knowledge society.
I know the European Parliament immediately expressed a keen interest in using the financial instruments developed by the EIB-EIF group in order to encourage European projects in the audiovisual sector. The steps taken by the Commission and the EIB culminated in December 2000 with the initiative "i2i-Audiovisual" programme, for which the EIB-EIF intends to assemble EUR 500 million for the three years ahead.
The aim of this initiative is to strengthen the industrial and financial base of operators (producers, distributors) of the sector, be they large or small, through several types of medium-term funding, risk capital and global loans. In parallel with this, the Commission and the EIB will work closely together in order to build up common initiatives between MEDIA Plus and the action of the EIB-EIF group. This is a big step forward for the European audiovisual sector. We will have the opportunity to come back to this over the months ahead.
In the interests of clarity and the quest for greater legal certainty, I intend this year to propose to the Commission a Communication on certain legal aspects concerning the cinema. Before that there will be a consultative document which will in particular deal with the definition of European work, the identification of the entitled parties, legal deposit (which could include the creation of a European register, or the interconnection of national registers), questions linked with the chronology of the media, for the use and classification of works and the analysis of any other regulatory measure likely to improve the circulation and dissemination of European films.
You will have an opportunity to take full part in the discussions. We also ask you to let us have your written comments and to take part in the public hearings which we will be announcing as quickly as possible.
The Communication will also include a chapter in which the Commission will clarify its guidelines for the application of the rules on State aid in its examination of the national systems for supporting the cinema.
PUBLIC TELEVISION SERVICE
Since the informal culture ministers meeting in Lille last July at which we had already discussed this subject, the Commission on 19 September adopted an important Communication on general interest services in Europe. It devotes a specific chapter to radio and television, stressing particularly the importance and the freedom of public broadcasting, as well as the funding arrangements and specific competences of the Member States.
Although work is still going on to establish a stable legal guideline for the public television service, I can already say that we would seem to be gradually moving towards a consensus on the following issues:
TELEVISION WITHOUT FRONTIERS
A series of consultations and studies will be launched in 2001 to examine a possible proposal for revision of this important legal instrument. The European Parliament can contribute to this process, particularly through the opinion it will be called upon to deliver on the 19972000 application report which it has just been sent.
The year 2000 will have been the one in which education claimed its rightful essential role in Europe in developing the European Union but also in developing the knowledge-based society. The Lisbon European Council acknowledged and was at pains to stress the fact that knowledge is an essential asset for the Union.
If we follow the Lisbon guidelines and implement the resulting strategy, we can give European cooperation in education fresh momentum and a new dimension; we obviously need to be serious and realistic about it, but also be resolute, determined and optimistic. I think this resolve exists within the Council and that we can create instruments useful to all the Member States and all the people of Europe.
A number of major ventures got under way last year which will be further developed this year:
In the wake of the e-Learning initiative launched by the Commission last May, the Commission has prepared a detailed programme for its implementation. This will soon be presented by the Commission. I would like to see this document taken into account by your rapporteur, Mr Mauro, in his consideration of e-learning so that it can be widely debated by yourselves. Other debates will take place, particularly with the industrial sector. It is a fact that we have to ensure that our projects are in line with the main technological trends, otherwise there is a risk that our endeavours will be marginalised in favour of innovative projects with a purely commercial base. I intend to put to the Education Council scheduled for 28 May the results of this broad-based consultation. I shall be submitting a report on the progress made and the Swedish Presidency intends to put forward a resolution. The Education Council should give its opinion on the use of information and communication technologies in education and training, particularly by setting out the way the e-Learning initiative is to be implemented.
The second venture started last year relates to mobility. I should first like to thank Mr Evans for his excellent report on such a difficult subject.
An agreement on a common position on the proposal for a recommendation emerged from the Education Council of 9 November last. The position was formally adopted before Christmas and was forwarded to the Parliament so that you can examine it, I hope, by February-March, and that the Parliament can adopt its opinion at the second reading at the April part-session. The Education Council of 28 May would then be in a position to give its final agreement.
We must then ensure that the recommendation is implemented. Your cooperation in this complex but important dossier has enabled us to progress rapidly.
In parallel with the proposal for a recommendation, the French Presidency took the initiative of putting forward an action plan on mobility which was adopted at the Nice European Council. The action plan and the recommendation represent two sides of the same coin for the Commission. This action plan is considered as a "toolbox", from which the most appropriate instruments can be selected both by the Member States and by the Commission. My departments and I are currently examining the points on which the Commission might itself make rapid use of these as part of its responsibilities and insofar as it is able to, but I believe we must first look at how the Member States will use them, because it is in national legislation that many of the obstacles mobility lie.
The third major dossier opened last year, but essentially focused on 2001 is the follow-up to the Lisbon European Council which stressed the importance of lifelong education and training for a successful transition to an economy and a society based on knowledge. The Feira European Council then called upon the Member States, the Council and the Commission to define consistent overall strategies to make lifelong education and training a reality for all our fellow citizens.
The Commission memorandum on lifelong education and training stresses that such education and training is not only necessary for keeping up employability or adaptability amongst employees on the labour market. They must aim at broader objectives, viz. promoting active citizenship by everyone and strengthening cohesion in our societies. The Commission proposes an overall vision which covers education and training right from the early years and throughout life. This vision encompasses for the first time the acquisition of skills within the formal framework and outside that framework. The fact is that individuals are increasingly acquiring knowledge and skills outside the formal framework of education and training, be it at work, at home or in cultural, sporting or other associations.
The Nice European Council also reiterated the vital role of lifelong education and training both in the European employment strategy and the implementation of the European social agenda.
Our task in the months ahead will therefore be to give genuine content to the new method of open coordination set out at Lisbon and which has been designed I quote "to help Member States gradually develop their own policies".
By defining guidelines and establishing indicators, this method makes it possible to establish common objectives based on consideration of the policies of the Member States; to assess the elements which would appear to contribute to achieving a good score in these areas; and to exchange good practice so that all those responsible for education can share the fruits of experiments and learn from the results of others.
If we succeed in bringing in a genuine system of open coordination we will for the first time in the brief history of a Europe of education have at our disposal an instrument which will provide the Member States and those responsible for education with an analysis of the factors which determine success in a series of education areas and to apply them if necessary in other areas. The European Council has stated that even if the way education systems are operated and organised continue to vary substantially, the objectives sought are becoming increasingly similar.
So it is on the basis of the objectives sought that the open coordination method will make its greatest impact. As regards the areas of education and training, this flexible method means we have to reflect upon and define tangible common objectives for our systems. The European Council has asked the Education Council to give thought to this subject and the Education Council has in turn asked the Commission to submit to it a report on the future tangible objectives of the education systems.
The extremely vast area covered by this report prompted the Education Ministers to envisage a two-phase approach.
A first phase will involve a report on the objectives of the education and training systems in order to adapt them to a knowledge-based society. This report should be adopted on 12 February next and submitted to the European Council in Stockholm. Then will begin the real discussions on the subject and the methods of open coordination. At that point I hope to see the Parliament, with the momentum given by this Committee, play its role of promoting ideas, safeguarding the interests of the European citizens, and defending education and training. I think that with your support we can arrive in Seville with the second phase of the report which will set out a working programme for the first decade of this new millennium.
The reason I have dwelled on this point is that I believe that the importance of the subject justifies it. I also believe that it was important to talk to you about this as quickly as possible, firstly because if education is where it is in Europe at present, it is thanks to your constant support, and secondly because I am counting on your assistance in the months ahead. I intend to involve you, as the European Parliament, in the implementation of this new open coordination method by sending for your opinion the communications the Commission will adopt in this context.
Other initiatives deserve to be mentioned as part of this concern for better quality in our education systems. The Parliament has just adopted the recommendation on the quality of school education and I am very grateful to Mrs Sanders-ten-Holte and your Committee for the excellent report you have produced.
The "Europass-Training" initiative is also part of making good use of skills and enhancing mobility.
The document itself provides information attesting to the fact that the holder has undertaken work-related training which includes a period of training in a Member State other than his own country. In accordance with the "Europass-Training" Decision, the Commission must by the end of 2001 submit an assessment report to the Council and the European Parliament on the implementation of this Decision and, if necessary, propose changes. We intend amongst other things to produce a "Europass-Training" document in electronic format to supplement the actual paper version and thus take on board the concern expressed by Mr von Wogau in a Parliamentary question.
In response to the mandate given by the Lisbon European Council, the Commission is working on the definition of a format for a European CV. Its main objective is to help people looking for work to submit to their prospective employers their paper qualifications, skills and experience in the most effective manner possible both in their country of origin and in other countries, thus removing certain futile obstacles stemming from different national approaches.
In order to give political weight to an initiative of this kind, I intend to present a draft recommendation on the common format for the CV in 2001.
3. THE WHITE PAPER ON YOUTH POLICY
As you know, when I announced a fresh Commission initiative in the area of youth, an initiative which will take the form of a White Paper, I wanted this to be preceded by a broad consultation of young people in particular. We want to organise a youth policy not only for young people but with young people.
This consultation is proving very rewarding and very useful. Last October in Paris, for instance, there was a big meeting with 450 young people from various national conferences. Your Committee was invited to this major event and I thank Lissy Gröner for taking an active part. She saw for herself, as I did, how resolute and focused these young people were in setting out their demands.
Then in November, at the time of the Council of Ministers meeting, 18 young people put before the Ministers and myself the results of the Paris meeting. This produced a fruitful exchange of views.
We have reached a half-way stage in this consultation and I am struck by how much young people expect from Europe. I several times had to explain to them that the Union's action has its limits. Many of their demands have to be addressed at the national level (accommodation, social security, etc.). We must not create expectations which we cannot fulfil.
The second stage of the consultation process will seek to bring out the priority problems at European level. The pace of events is sustained:
A hearing is, I believe, scheduled for March after the Umeå seminar. Any initiative the Parliament might take, and your committee in particular, will obviously strengthen our reflection as we prepare the White Paper and will be most welcome.
This White Paper will be the European Commission's flagship action for youth-related matters in the years ahead. We want to use all the assets we have to make it a success for the benefit of youth. I know that I can again count on your commitment on this dossier.
The results of the Nice Council can be considered positive with regard to the areas of education, training, sport and the media. Culture, on the other hand, is a sensitive area and a switch to qualified majority voting was not possible. This would have been conducive to more extensive and more dynamic European cooperation, but we can nevertheless move forward thanks to the Culture 2000 programme which after a tricky starting year to put in place the new procedures and structures, is now fully operational and can meet the expectations of the hundreds of promoters selected at the end of last December. The call for proposals for this year is about to be published in the Official Journal and will also be available on the Internet.
I know how sensitive you are to the matter of sport and how precious your support is to our aspiration, I would even say our fight.
I finally have the opportunity to thank you for the quality of the two opinions delivered on the Helsinki report and on the Community support plan to combat doping in sport. These reports gave the Commission considerable help while contributing to inform the European debate on sport. The ideas and suggestions also helped towards the Nice outcome, which is gratifying for us all.
The Nice European Council adopted a declaration on the uniqueness of sport and its social role. It is the first time that a text of this importance has been adopted at this level. It therefore stands as a major victory for sport and is one step further towards increased recognition of sport at the Community level.
This success is to a great extent your success, inasmuch as the European Parliament has always played an active and positive role with regard to sport and has always set great store by one aspect of sport which was highlighted in Nice, that of social sport, educational sport, sport as a factor of integration.
The declaration addresses different points to which you are attached: solidarity, ethics and the rhythm of competitions, sport for everyone. It states that sport cannot be reduced to a mere economic dimension and at the same time points out that when a sporting activity, a competition, a club wholly embraces the economic approach, it has to be handled as such by Community and national laws and must not be allowed to evade the rules which apply to everyone.
The Commission will do its utmost to respond to the European Council's invitation particularly when highlighting the social dimension of sport and its uniqueness, bearing in mind the limitations of its responsibilities under the rule of subsidiarity.
The European Council also called upon the Member States and Community institutions to step up cooperation in the fight against doping.
The Council of Ministers for its part recently acknowledged that certain Community responsibilities would allow the Union to fill a seat at the WADA, which would enable Europe to have its voice heard in the international arena and continue to promote an active policy to fight against this scourge which tarnishes the values of sport.
We will this year have the results of a series of 16 pilot actions launched to counter doping, some of which have been conducted in conjunction with local and regional authorities.
Looking ahead to the Athens Games, I intend, moreover, to launch in conjunction with the International Olympic Committee and the European national committees, a campaign to disseminate the values of Olympic competitions. I would like to see this action culminate with the declaration on "2004, European Year of Sport", as I announced on 7 September last in Strasbourg.
Lastly, I would be missing something out if I did not say a few words on the matter of transfers. As you know, the European Commission is currently negotiating on the basis of proposals forwarded to it by the UEFA and the FIFA. I feel there is a good chance of success in this area particularly as the footballing world has drawn together after recent internal divergences. The system of transfers which should emerge from these discussions ought to be a system which respects Community and national law. It will be a system which confirms that workers, including professional sportsmen and women, have inalienable rights. Account must also be taken of the need to promote the training efforts made by clubs and to protect players who are under legal age. Lastly, it will be a system which takes full account of the interests of football and the uniqueness of sport.
With your help, I give my commitment to sport and to a specific image of sport. I think we need to give this important human activity the place it deserves in the process of European integration, with the involvement of everyone and in full respect of each and everyone's responsibilities.
6. EUROPEAN YEAR OF LANGUAGES
2001 is just beginning and is the European Year of Languages. Europe is and will remain multilingual. This linguistic and cultural diversity is one of the most important features and one of the riches of our continent. Languages are also part of our identities at the deepest level.
This year will be the opportunity to raise the awareness of all Europeans as to the vital importance of languages and learning them. In today's knowledge-based society everyone must learn languages in order to broaden his or her personal, cultural, or occupational horizons and in particular to use his or her right to move freely within the European Union.
The slogan for this year will be "Languages open doors", an expression which in a few words admirably sums up the objective of the excercise. A comprehensive information package on the European Year is available in this hall.
The year will be launched officially at a conference under the Swedish Presidency in Lund on 18-20 February, to which the representatives of the European Parliament will be invited. The closing conference will take place under the Belgian Presidency. In the meantime the Commission will co-finance the presentation of the European Year of Languages in every Member State. A European Language Week will be organised in May 2001 (5-11 May). 26 September 2001 will be the European Languages Day to celebrate the European Union's linguistic and cultural diversity.
I should like to thank your committee for its contribution to the discussions on the decision proclaiming the European Year. I have no doubt that you will be following its progress with great interest and I will keep you regularly informed.
7. TOWN TWINNING
I think I have given a fairly comprehensive picture of the major themes we will be dealing with this year, without of course forgetting our other major programmes such as Socrates, Leonardo, Youth, Tempus or Town Twinning, the implementation of which will feature ongoing research and a constant resolve to improve, simplify and achieve transparency in the procedures.
With your permission, I would like to speak briefly about the town twinning programme.
The Commission's programme on this has existed since 1989 and is a way of strengthening dialogue within an active and participative European Union.
This programme fits into a "Civil society" project designed to strengthen the presence of the European institutions in the debate on the future of the European Union launched by the Nice European Council.
It has in a way fallen victim to its own success and the human resources difficulties which exist within the Commission.
Owing to the considerable rise in the number of applications over the past few years, processing times had become much longer and the budgetary resources were no longer able to guarantee fair and balanced distribution of subsidies. Something had to be done and we have taken action.
In order to put this situation right and improve management of the programme at all levels selection, distribution of aid over the year, rapid processing of dossiers we decided, in consultation with the organisations which cooperate with us under the twinning programme, to introduce for 2001 the call for proposals procedure normally used for managing Commission subsidies. A series of elements were introduced into this procedure in order to take account of the specific features of twinning. We have accordingly installed three tranches, i.e. 22 December, 9 March and 10 August, in order to guarantee reasonable application times and to largely maintain the current criteria to allow our partners a smooth transition to the new system. Considerable information has been made available (publication in the Official Journal, Internet, communication to interested parties). An evaluation meeting with the representative organisations is scheduled around the end of 2001. We are of course willing to discuss these matters with your committee as soon as sufficient information on the operation of the new procedures is available.
8. INFORMATION AND COMMUNICATION
In order to give you a complete view of my responsibilities, I should like to inform you of the decisions taken at the end of November by the Commission in the area of information and communication.
Since it entered office in September 1999, the Prodi Commission has sought to strengthen its approach to these tasks. Certain information activities have therefore been decentralised to specialised services better able to produce quality information close to the intended recipients (e.g. the priority euro actions, enlargement, dialogue on Europe, etc.).
We have also endeavoured to develop synergy between the various instruments at our disposal: relations with the press, action by the representations, cooperation with the European Parliament, increased cooperation with the national authorities, and the use of a wide range of regional and local information points.
We have nevertheless noted that further progress was needed in this direction, that the arrangements introduced in 1999 had to be strengthened. The European Parliament also expressed a similar view and we have had the opportunity to discuss this on several occasions. The Commission accordingly decided to transfer the management of the three budget headings most directly linked to informing the general public from the Directorate-General for Education and Culture to the Press and Communication Service under President Prodi as from 1 January this year.
This measure corresponds to our common concern and is structured around two objectives:
The Commission would nevertheless like to broaden its reflection and its action beyond the short term. We are therefore already considering the major guidelines which should steer the formulation of concrete proposals for our future information and communication policy.
The Commission will present these proposals as soon as possible and work closely with the European Parliament.
I have presented to you a panorama of the activities which I intend to pursue this year. A complete list of these activities is available to you in this hall. This work programme will be illustrated in the coming months by my departments. Each director will come to give you a fuller picture of his programme. Mr David Coyne, director for education, will be present at your 5 February meeting, i.e. one week before the Education Council to be held on 12 February. He will be followed in March by Mr Vale de Almeida who will present to you the Commission's youth policy 15 days before your hearing; by Mr Baer in April to describe to you his wide-ranging activities (media, culture, sport) and present the communication we are preparing on the cinema; and by Mr Dibelius in May who will speak on the memorandum on lifelong learning and vocational training. Mr van der Pas, the Director-General, will speak at the half-way stage (in June) to undertake a first stocktaking of our activities and submit to you our programme of work for the second half of the year.
Summing up, I should like to stress how important I feel the overall priority of the knowledge-based society is, a sort of guiding principle in all the policies for which I am responsible. The heads of state and government in Lisbon considered its development to be essential for Europe. I will endeavour throughout my term of office to help to build up this Europe of knowledge characterised by fulfilled societies and one of the most competitive economies, if not the most competitive, in the world. In doing so, I shall take care to abide by the rules of subsidiarity in the areas of education and culture, areas which are essentially the domain of the Member States or their regional authorities.
These are not idle words this is the reality of the situation. Education is the very example of an area where the vital issues have to be decided at the closest level possible. The European Union must restrict itself to bringing its own added value and essential as this may admittedly be just think, for instance, of student exchanges under ERASMUS it is always intended to supplement what is done by the Member States themselves. It is essential for all the players involved in the new institutional reform due in 2004, and for which the agenda will be set later this year in Laeken, to understand that the guiding principles of the Commission's action now and then in the areas of education and culture are subsidiarity, complementarity and European added value.
Thank you for your attention.
« Annex on the European CV »
The CV will be used essentially in two ways: i) in its traditional format as a (paper or electronic) annex to be produced when applying for a job, and ii) for inclusion in a data base for job seekers, a system which has moreover already been introduced in some Member States. The Commission is currently examining the feasibility of setting up a data base of this kind at the European level within the EURES network.