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Member of the European Commission responsible for Education. Culture, Multilingualism and Youth
State on play on 'Erasmus for All' and 'Creative Europe'
European Parliament's Culture Committee / Brussels
19 June 2012
Ladies and gentlemen,
It's good to be with you again, and I am very grateful for this opportunity to exchange views with you on my proposals for the 'Erasmus for All' and 'Creative Europe' programmes.
Although these are still early days in the negotiations, I think we can usefully take stock of the discussions so far. It is also helpful to pause and reflect on why Europe needs these two programmes so urgently.
Two programmes that will bring new opportunities to millions of Europeans. Two programmes that respond to a social, economic and cultural landscape that is constantly evolving. Two programmes which offer more funding and a lasting impact, and where the European Union really adds value to the work of our Member States and stakeholders. And two programmes that will make life simpler and more efficient for the people that benefit from them and those that manage them.
Let us be clear about the scale of our ambitions. Both 'Erasmus for All' and 'Creative Europe' aspire to bring about fundamental change in these sectors. Beyond the immediate impact of their funding, both programmes are catalysts for long-term reforms.
Let us take just a couple of examples. In education, our proposals for Knowledge Alliances and Sector Skills Alliances will help to redefine the relationship between universities, training providers and businesses. They will develop innovative ways of producing and sharing knowledge, and help to foster creativity and entrepreneurship.
In culture, our proposals will help small and medium-sized organisations to adopt new business models and embrace digitisation.
Even if we get every euro we ask for, EU support will never be sufficient for the challenges we face in education and culture across Europe. But these two proposals offer real support to our stakeholders as they embark upon the path of modernisation and reform.
Let me start with 'Erasmus for All'.
Europe, today more than ever, needs a strong, coherent and effective programme that invests substantial resources in education, training, youth and sport.
For each sector we have set ambitious goals. We propose to double the opportunities for learning mobility and to offer higher grants, always reflecting the costs of living in different countries. For the first time ever, we have an EU instrument for sport. But the real strength of this programme lies in its coherence and sense of purpose, and I think all of us here would agree on the basic principles behind it.
First, a streamlined architecture. A single programme will help us to break down the barriers between sectors, and recognise that formal and non-formal education are not separate worlds.
On the contrary, the formal and non-formal sectors work side-by-side, providing people with the full range of skills they need, enhancing their personal development and promoting social inclusion. A single programme captures this synergy.
Second, a core of three actions that run like a signature through the entire programme, and give a clear sense of what the EU has to offer: learning mobility for individuals; cooperation between institutions for innovation and good practices; and support to policy reform.
Third, a clear link between the programme's priorities and the EU's long-term political objectives that is stronger than ever, and which justifies the budget we have proposed.
All these elements are the very heart of 'Erasmus for All', and I think we agree on them. Let us bear this in mind as we turn to focus on issues where I know you have concerns.
I have met the youth sector on many occasions. I have spent time with them and listened to their worries about being part of a single programme. I fully respect their concerns, but I think they are ill-founded.
If we are proposing to integrate formal, in-formal and non-formal learning in a lifelong learning approach, it is because we strengthen each of the parts by doing so.
Youth groups will not lose their specificity. On the contrary, their work will take its natural place alongside all the other forms of exchange and cooperation.
From civic and democratic participation to exchanges and volunteering, actions for youth will develop on an equal footing with the rest of the programme, and start to enjoy the broader recognition they deserve. Dismantling the artificial barriers between the various education and training sectors is a strong political message, and one that this Parliament has voiced time and again.
I am certainly in favour of high visibility for youth within 'Erasmus for All', and I am confident we can achieve this while ensuring that the sector enjoys all the benefits of an integrated programme with the three core actions.
Let me say a few words on management. 'Erasmus for All' will largely be implemented at national level, through national agencies. Implementation will be closer to beneficiaries than at present, and this is certainly something that beneficiaries expect. But still we have a duty to ensure coherence and cost efficiency. This is why the Commission proposed a single national coordinating agency for each country.
Regardless of the final outcome on this question, I believe that it remains in the Union's interest to achieve a more even and coherent implementation of the programme, not only between but also within Member States.
Turning to the Jean Monnet Actions, the fact is that many new institutions could now claim to deserve direct funding from 'Erasmus for All' – just like the six listed in the current Lifelong Learning programme. The College of Parma, for example, or the Central European University; I am sure each of you could suggest others on the basis of your own experience.
Every expansion of the list of direct beneficiaries would inevitably lead to a corresponding decrease in the budget available to other eligible bodies. This is why, I believe, we should not add other institutions to the regulation. We should rather let all those well-qualified institutions compete for funding with their peers. This is the best guarantee that we support the best projects.
On sport, I would simply welcome the broad consensus about what the programme can usefully achieve. Together we are opening a new chapter in the EU's contribution to sport, and I applaud this Committee's commitment to the field.
I now come to the level of detail in the 'Erasmus for All' proposal and the minimum budget allocations by sector. I think that here I need to offer more explanation and give some reassurances.
We are proposing a lean and flexible legal base, one which will allow for – and, indeed, encourage – synergies across different educational sectors. This means that most actions will be open to all sectors. But I want to stress once again what I have already said on previous occasions: sectors do not have to compete, one against the other. All stakeholders are equally welcome, whatever their size. There will be no bias against one sector or in favour of another.
In the communication accompanying the regulation, we specified the minimum budget that each sector would need in order to receive more than the minima guaranteed under the current programme. But more importantly, in the Commission's proposal, every sector would receive substantially more funding than is the case now, in line with our earlier commitment that every sector would gain from the budget increase.
So, I believe that the questions we should ask ourselves are the following:
Are we able to decide in 2012 on the detailed funding priorities, not only for 2014, but also for 2019 or 2020? Do we achieve greater efficiency by carving up the budget today without leaving any room for manoeuvre in the future? Do we not need the flexibility that would allow us, for example, to respond to more projects across several sectors, something which clearly needs to be encouraged?
Let me finally say a few words on the name of the programme.
More than anything, we wanted a brand that the general public instantly recognises and aspires to. EU citizens have regularly chosen 'Erasmus' as one of the 10 most successful and visible benefits of EU membership. The name is positively associated with education, mobility and cross-border cooperation in the minds of millions of Europeans.
This is why, when Parliamentarians wanted to promote mobility in vocational training, Parliament called for an 'Erasmus for apprentices'. And when it wanted to deepen knowledge on cohesion policy in the Member States, Parliament called for an 'Erasmus for regionally and locally elected representatives'. And when the European Youth Forum promotes Comenius pupil mobility, they brand it as 'Junior Erasmus'.
We need to be consistent; but an integrated programme is not consistent with keeping the brand names of the existing sub-programmes.
'Erasmus for All' foster the mobility not just of students in higher education but in vocational education and training, for the young but also adults, of young people and staff in all education and training sectors and in the youth field. And it will do a lot more. It will encourage cooperation between education, training and youth organisations, promote the exchange of good practice, and develop good policy.
'Erasmus for All' can send a clear signal to all European engaged in formal, informal or non-formal education that Europe is there for them, that it works to improve the quality and relevance of their education, training and youth activities.
In the end, we should ask ourselves what we want most from a name. Do we want a definition or a brand? Do we want a set of words that describes every part of what the programme does, or do we want a name that resonates with people and symbolises some of Europe's most basic values: opportunity, openness and exchange.
Let me now turn more briefly to the 'Creative Europe' programme, and reflect again on what we are trying to achieve.
I believe our proposal to be an effective tool to realise the potential of the cultural and creative sectors, and to promote Europe's cultural richness and diversity. In other words, a tool to strengthen both the intrinsic value of culture and its economic and social role.
We are building on solid ground. The MEDIA strand will continue successful actions such as distribution, training and networking for European cinema, both within and outside the European Union. The Culture strand will continue to support the non-profit organisations that benefit from the current programme.
But we do not exclude profit-making operators. This would send the wrong political signal towards the cultural and creative sectors, discouraging them from looking for alternative sources of financing.
What is new in 'Creative Europe' is a determination to support all of these organisations in more effective ways: to become more international, to find new partners, to be innovative, and to develop and reach new audiences.
Here too, some are arguing for a more detailed legal base. But again we need to recognise that the creative sectors and the world in which they operate are changing rapidly and profoundly. Innovation cannot be predicted, and we should not try to predict in detail where it will lead during the seven-year life of the programme; not in the legal base.
YouTube and Facebook have dramatically changed the way audio-visual content is distributed and accessed; they did not even exist when the current MEDIA programme was designed. This is why we propose a simple, flexible legal base that allows for adjustments during the lifespan of the programme.
Regarding the Guarantee Facility, micro, small, and medium sized organisations from all sectors will have access to the loans for which the Facility will provide guarantees. We are working closely with the European Investment Fund on the design of the Facility, and I am happy to say that preliminary tests are promising.
But let me be clear on a point which, I know, has caused concern: loans will not replace grants; they will complement them by addressing the specific investment needs of those operators with the capacity to reimburse loans.
Non-profit-making cultural operators will continue to benefit from grants. As I said earlier, we are supporting culture both for its intrinsic value and for its economic and social contribution. There is no contradiction between the two.
Thank you again for this opportunity to share my thoughts on both programmes. Education, training, youth, sport and culture are critical to Europe's future. Especially in these difficult times. We all know this, and I am sure that we will continue to work together in a spirit of partnership. It is in this spirit that I am with you here today.