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Member of the European Commission responsible for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth

Presentation of 'Erasmus for All' and 'Creative Europe'

Annual meeting of the German Länder Education and Culture Ministers

Berlin, 8 December 2011

Dear Ministers,

Ladies and gentlemen,

I am very pleased to be here with you today, and to have this opportunity to present and discuss my proposals for the new programmes, 'Erasmus for All' and 'Creative Europe'.

These are difficult times for Europe and for European citizens. There are choices to be made that will shape our future.

But even during this crisis, above all at the height of this crisis, we must not lose sight of the long-term. Investments made today prepare the growth of tomorrow.

All of us understand that if we do not continue to invest in the education of our young people, and in the extraordinary resource that culture represents, we will not be able to create the jobs and the economic growth we so sorely need. The crisis facing Europe's youth – with 40% unemployment in some countries – only adds to the urgency.

Investing in the future – in knowledge, innovation, education and creativity – is the approach at the heart of the Europe 2020 agenda. It is also what our two new programmes set out to do.

Let me start with 'Erasmus for All', and with the principles and ambitions that have guided our proposal.

Europe urgently needs to modernise its education and training systems, improve its people's skills, and offer new opportunities to its young people. We need a European programme that can help Member States – and, in Germany, their Länder – to meet these challenges.

'Erasmus for All' is our proposal. It brings together the existing programmes for education, training and youth, and for the first time includes sport.

The programme has a simple and coherent structure, ensuring that every euro we spend serves our long-term goals. Instead of a patchwork of different activities, I am proposing to you a long-term strategy which focuses spending in those areas where European funding has already shown its capacity to add value.

So, first and foremost, 'Erasmus for All' will expand the opportunities for learning mobility, building on the unique reputation and popularity that 'Erasmus' has built up over 25 years.

Second, it will strengthen the lifelong learning approach, by linking support to formal and non-formal learning throughout the education and training fields.

Third, it will enlarge the scope for structured partnerships, both between different sectors of education and with business and other relevant actors.

And finally, it will provide flexibility and incentives, so that the funding flows where performance and impact are most in evidence.

In practical terms, the Programme will support three types of key action, which are complementary and mutually reinforcing.

The first is the learning mobility of individuals.

Learning mobility will receive the lion's share of the total budget – around 65 per cent. I am convinced this is the right choice, because mobility is where Europe makes a real and lasting difference to people's lives.

That is why the budget we propose will allow us to increase the number of people benefiting from mobility from the current 400,000 per year to an average of 700,000 per year.

And it will allow us to offer increased mobility opportunities not only to the traditional Erasmus audience of students, but also to trainees, to young volunteers and to teachers and trainers.

We also want to introduce something completely new: a guarantee facility for student loans that will allow more Masters students to complete their studies abroad.

The Commission will not provide the loans itself. But together with the European Investment Bank, we will guarantee the loans made by selected financial institutions in the Member States, on terms that are more favourable than those the market would provide.

With modest means, we believe we can achieve an important 'multiplier' effect, which is more efficient and less costly than traditional grants.

After mobility, the second type of action is cooperation for innovation and good practices.

We intend to support strategic partnerships between education and training bodies and between youth organisations, with a strong emphasis on the development of new educational content and new approaches.

We will support large-scale partnerships between education and business, in the form of Knowledge Alliances for higher education and Sector Skills Alliances in vocational education and training.

We will also promote IT support platforms, building on the successful and cost-effective forms of e-Twinning which have grown up between schools in Comenius and which can now inspire similar platforms for other sectors.

And we will support educational capacity-building in third countries, with a strong focus on our neighbourhood, as well as strategic partnerships between European higher education and developed and emerging economies.

Let me give you some concrete examples of what we mean by cooperation.

The partnerships between higher education institutions and businesses will develop new ways of producing and sharing knowledge. They will foster creativity and entrepreneurship, and design new curricula and qualifications.

We want to encourage a European dimension in national volunteering schemes, so that we open up such schemes to transnational mobility.

And we want to support partnerships involving regional and local authorities that bring together actors from different sectors to create new lifelong learning strategies. This will lead to a more efficient use of resources and produce mobility schemes of higher quality.

The third form of action, after mobility and cooperation, will be support to policy reform. This is where we – the Commission, the Member States and the wider educational community – come together to share best practice and discuss new ideas.

I propose to focus on a number of priorities. These will include:

  • the Modernisation of Higher Education;

  • the Bologna and Copenhagen processes;

  • the new European Agenda for Adult Learning adopted by the Council on 28 November with strong German support;

  • the key competences for lifelong learning;

  • our new ranking tool for universities;

  • ICT in schools;

  • early school leaving;

  • and literacy.

A point that is very important to me is that all of our stakeholders and all our educational sectors will benefit from these new opportunities. 'Erasmus for All' will mean increased opportunities for all, over and above what we offer today.

Contrary to what some have feared, we will not be setting the schools sector in competition with higher education. There will be an adequate minimum guarantee of funding for each of the main categories to ensure that each will get more than the levels on offer for the 2007-2013 period.

Each category of stakeholder will see a large net increase in its funding. This is the key point. A single programme allows us to increase funding for everyone. No one gets left behind.

Now, at this point you might ask me: so why could you not keep the separate programmes? Let me explain.

Today, the EU's support for education, training and youth is extremely fragmented. We have six sub-programmes, more than 50 objectives and over 60 actions. Some actions lack the critical mass required for long-lasting impact, or have a high administrative cost.

So, as you can see, today we have a patchwork of programmes with different objectives and different identities, each operating in a different way according to different rules – and with only a small degree of interaction between them.

And all of this fragmentation comes at a cost. Different rules and different procedures mean more management and more risk of waste.

But above all, by fragmenting our efforts we cannot respond forcefully to the challenges we face in our education and training systems. We cannot enjoy the synergies between formal, non-formal and informal education.

This is why we need a single programme that responds to the needs of the different sectors and ensures they all benefit from the increase in funding – but also gives them the visibility, focus and long-term impact of a coherent strategy.

I would like now to say a few words about how we will integrate the external dimension of higher education into the new programme.

Today, the EU runs five different programmes for cooperation with third countries. We propose to streamline this into the three key actions of the new programme, again with a strong emphasis on mobility.

We will expand the number of high-quality joint degrees and scholarships that we support worldwide. Our funding will reflect the thematic and geographical priorities of the EU's external policy.

I am particularly happy to announce that we will strengthen cooperation with our neighbourhood countries. We will support the capacity building of institutions and the modernisation of higher education, and closely link these activities to student and staff mobility.

In the new programme, the focus on youth will be strengthened – I know that there has been a strong concern within Germany that Youth should not be swamped by Education within the single programme.

In fact, we will strengthen our support for youth under the new programme, building on the heritage of the 'Youth in Action' programme and making new bridges between non-formal learning and formal education. All of this with the guaranteed benefit of the budget increase proposed for 'Erasmus for All'.

This means that youth exchanges, the European Voluntary Service, training and networking for youth workers, and the structured dialogue with youth organisations will continue and be reinforced.

The participation of Neighbouring countries in the current 'Youth in Action' will also continue with 'Erasmus for All'.

So, I hope this is now clear. We are not undermining the work that youth groups do for participation and democracy-learning. On the contrary, we are boosting their resources and expanding their opportunities.

'Erasmus for All' will continue to promote excellence in education and research on EU integration through the Jean Monnet sub-programme.

And for the very first time, sport will have its own chapter and budget, to carry out its own distinct types of actions.

Let me say just a few words on the implementation of the programme. Simplification is the central idea. Without simplification, we could not even have hoped for the increase in funding we achieved.

We have listened to the views of beneficiaries and stakeholders, including our National Agencies. The simplified architecture will result in more cost-effective management, keeping operating costs low and freeing up more money for our beneficiaries on the ground.

We also propose to reduce the administrative burden for national authorities, who will play more of a monitoring and supervisory role than a pure control role.

National Agencies will remain at the core of the programme management. They will manage mobility of individuals and strategic partnerships.

We propose a single coordinating agency per Member State, to simplify the management, and reduce the number of agreements and controls. I know that this can be an issue of concern in countries such as Germany.

We want agencies to be the main entry point for EU learning mobility. This will simplify things for beneficiaries, whether they participate as student, trainee or volunteer.

However, each country can decide precisely how to organise their national agencies in order to respond to local needs. In practice, the Commission will recognise and deal with one agency. But if a country wants to have two or more, we will consider them 'offices', and it is up to them to decide how they want to structure themselves. Already today, our financial contribution is based on the volume of work, and not on the number of agencies.

However, I would like to encourage you to think constructively about pragmatic solutions, which could reconcile the imperative of cost saving and efficiency, on the one hand, and the respect for the federal structure of your country, on the other. The Commission will be there to support you in this task.

Now let me turn to the name of the programme. Above all, we wanted something that would be immediately recognisable among large parts of the general population.

We wanted a brand that was symbolic of the EU's most credible and respected achievements. A brand that is in demand – a brand that others want to borrow.

But we also wanted to mark the new opportunities that all stakeholders will enjoy. This is why we have called the new programme, 'Erasmus for All'.

It is an ambitious programme, and we are proposing a budget to match. Between 2014 and 2020, we intend to invest more than 19 billion Euros in the future of our people.

This new budget brings an unprecedented change to the political priorities of the European Union, a redirection of EU spending in favour of knowledge and skills – something that, I hope, we can all welcome.

Too often in the past, we have declared the importance of education, training and youth – and then failed to back words with resources. With this programme we are trying to put that right.

A great deal of thought and effort has gone into our proposal for 'Erasmus for All', just as a lot of thought and effort has gone into the proposal for the new 'Creative Europe' programme.

The same principles and ambitions underpin both programmes. As with education, investing in culture will contribute significantly to the economic growth of the EU.

Building on the successes of the Culture and the MEDIA programmes, we expect that 'Creative Europe' will help the sectors to make the most of the opportunities of globalisation and the digital shift.

The 'Creative Europe' programme is designed to help professionals and companies to seize these opportunities and reach new markets in Europe and beyond.

We see it as a one-stop-shop for cultural and creative industries, but there will continue to be separate sub-programmes for culture and MEDIA which can focus on the different needs of the respective sectors, while developing synergies between them.

The programme will also support cultural and creative professionals in finding private financing – a key issue for a sector made up predominantly of small companies. It will do so through a guarantee fund that will leverage European funding by attracting co-financing from other sources.

'Creative Europe' will reinforce cultural exchanges at European level by supporting cross-border cooperation projects, like in the current Programme.

Thanks to the increase in funding that we are proposing, we expect that more than 8,000 cultural organisations will be involved in cooperation projects with fellow operators from other countries. This will allow many thousands of artists and professionals to acquire international experience and take the path of an international career.

The new programme will focus on reaching out to a broader European audience, and on strengthening the visibility of European cultural activities. We would hope to reach more than 100 million people over the run of the programme.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Education, youth, creativity and innovation are growth areas where Europe can achieve significant added value.

The 'Erasmus for All' and 'Creative Europe' proposals are designed to respond to the challenges we face, and provide just such an EU added value. Our intention is to implement them with a strong focus on value for money.

We may not agree on every part of the proposals. But I sincerely believe that the goals we share are bigger and more important than our differences.

I hope that, together, we can keep our eye on the real prize: two programmes that respond to the challenges we face.

And I hope we can join forces in the discussions ahead.

Thank you.

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