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Mrs Androulla Vassiliou
Member of the European Commission responsible for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth
"Youth on the Move" - speaking points
Brussels, 15 September 2010
Ladies and gentlemen,
Earlier this year, the European Commission set out its ambitious new strategy to help Europe recover from the recent economic and financial crisis and achieve smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. The Europe 2020 Strategy was endorsed by the Member States on the seventeenth of June.
Developing an economy based on knowledge and innovation; radically improving resource efficiency; boosting employment, while ensuring social cohesion across twenty-seven Member States, is no easy task. However, some things are clear. It is clear that achieving "smart", "sustainable" and "inclusive" growth will depend on the skills, knowledge and innovative capacity of Europe's people. It is equally clear that our young people – currently among those most affected by the crisis and its aftermath – have a crucial role to play in Europe's future development.
This is why the European Commission is today launching Youth on the Move – the EU's new initiative "to respond to the challenges young people face and help them succeed in the knowledge economy".
Many of Europe's young people excel in their chosen educational or training path and succeed in securing employment that matches their qualifications. However, too many young Europeans – over fourteen per cent in fact - leave school early and too few enter higher education in comparison to our major competitors. This jeopardises Europe's future skills base.
What is more, the last year has seen a worrying increase in youth unemployment rates across the EU. Too many young people are at risk of being excluded from the labour market. More needs to be done to help young people into work and allow them to progress in employment.
To tackle these problems, Youth on the Move sets out actions which will be taken by the European Commission or Member State governments – or both. These actions focus on three main areas affecting young people:
I would now like to tell you a little about the areas which concern education and training. My colleague László Andor will then speak to you about the actions we propose on youth employment.
Firstly, working with the Member States, we will step up our efforts to improve the performance of Europe's education and training systems at all levels.
At school level, the European Commission is launching new initiatives to help improve literacy among pupils at risk of falling behind. We will also support Member States in tackling early school leaving. In so doing, we will work together to achieve the Europe 2020 target of bringing below 10% the worryingly high proportion of young people who drop out of education before the end of secondary school.
Vocational Education and Training and practical apprenticeships and traineeships play a vital role in equipping young people with the skills they need to succeed. This is why the European Commission will reinforce cooperation with Member States and the social partners to increase provision and raise the attractiveness and quality of such training.
Our universities and other higher education institutions not only provide young people with the high-level skills so vital for the knowledge economy; but also contribute to the generation of knowledge and innovative potential for society at large. Much has been achieved by Europe's universities over the past decade - but further efforts are needed. This is why the European Commission will next year publish a new strategy to guide modernisation of higher education in Europe.
The second main strand of Youth on the Move reflects the name of the initiative as a whole. It will create more opportunities for young people to gain valuable skills by spending time studying or training abroad. The European Commission has long supported this through programmes such as Erasmus and we aim to build on this success.
We have today published a proposal for a new Council Recommendation, which urges Member States to remove different obstacles to studying or training abroad. The Commission will monitor progress with a new Mobility Scoreboard.
Meanwhile, we have already begun to prepare the new EU funding programmes, which will begin in 2014. We will focus on ensuring that the new programmes will be accessible to as many young people as possible.