Towards a stronger and more inclusive Europe through learner mobility, creativity, volunteering and digital transformation  

​Ulrike Hiller, CoR rapporteur for Erasmus

SEDEC Commission examines proposals for Erasmus, Creative Europe and Digital Europe programmes as well as the European Solidarity Corps

The SEDEC Commission, in charge of Social Policy, Education, Employment, Research and Culture at the European Committee of the Regions (CoR), adopted on 18 October four opinions on different programmes of the EU's next multiannual budget 2021–2027.

Erasmus programme for education, training, youth and sport (rapporteur Ulrike Hiller, DE/PES)

Although the European Commission proposes doubling the budget of the Erasmus programme, the target of tripling the number of participants and the aim of increased inclusiveness might be difficult to achieve. Therefore, the SEDEC commission is calling for a transparent and equitable distribution of resources over the entire seven-year period, in which the budget is clearly allocated between the key actions.

Rapporteur Ulrike Hiller, Member of the Senate of Bremen, urged for stronger measures to promote mobility in the field of vocational training and apprenticeships, as well as for people with disabilities. "Erasmus has been a success story and it must be strengthened to give all young Europeans a chance to profit from mobility", she said. The draft opinion also points out the significance of lifelong learning and argues that all age groups and both formal and non-formal education should be supported equally.

Creative Europe and A New European Agenda for Culture (rapporteur János Ádám Karácsony, HU/EPP)

Given the significantly higher number of priorities in the new programme, the CoR draft opinion proposes to raise the budgetary target to over EUR 2 billion from the proposed EUR 1.85 billion. It underlines the need to better incorporate culture and cultural heritage into the priorities of the next EU budget and emphasises that local and regional authorities should be systematically consulted in the conception, implementation and governance of the measures designed to provide financing for cultural and creative sectors across Europe.

According to the rapporteur János Karácsony, local councillor of Tahitótfalu, "it is important to ensure the right balance between the allocation of resources for major, large-scale projects and financing measures and activities focused at local and regional level, including by SMEs".

European Solidarity Corps and the New EU Youth Strategy (rapporteur: Matteo Luigi Bianchi, IT/ECR)

The CoR draft opinion calls for a clear distinction to be made between the voluntary and employment strands of the European Solidarity Corps, in order to avoid insecure or unpaid forms of work. Underlining the need for a strong local dimension, the rapporteur Matteo Bianchi said: "We want to stress that the needs and demands of local communities should be an important quality criterion for identifying eligible projects". The Mayor of Morazzone underlined that the role of local volunteering needs to be strengthened.

Another important proposal in the draft opinion concerns the new EU Youth Strategy: "Given that the new EU Youth Coordinator will not be able to be in contact with all European regions, I propose to organise regular meetings between the European Committee of the Regions and this coordinator in order to establish a form of structured cooperation", stressed Mr Bianchi.

Digital Europe Programme (rapporteur Markku Markkula, FI/EPP)

According to the rapporteur Markku Markkula, Chair of Espoo City Board and First Vice-President of CoR, the key question is "how to make the Digital Europe programme attractive enough so that cities and regions – with their industries, universities and citizens – speed up the European wide digital and economic transformation by considerably increasing public and private investment in human and physical capital".

The draft opinion emphasises the importance of establishing the network of Digital Innovation Hubs with sufficient coverage for all regions. By setting out a vision for place-based innovation ecosystems where digitalisation is a driver for development, the programme should allow European companies to develop innovative business models and take a strong role at global stage.

All four opinions will be adopted at the CoR plenary session on 5–6 December.