Invest in education and culture to strengthen European identity, local and regional leaders say during debate with EU Commissioner
Whilst welcoming the European Commission's proposal to double the budget for the Erasmus programme, the European Committee of the Regions has stressed the need to improve the inclusiveness of the EU programme so it reaches all age groups, social backgrounds and forms of education and training. In a debate with EU Commissioner Tibor Navracsics, members of the EU's assembly for local and regional leaders highlighted the importance of education and culture to strengthen European identity and expressed their support for the European Education Area, which should be finalised by 2025.
Tibor Navracsics, Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, said: “Investing in education, youth and culture is key to building a resilient, cohesive Europe. I am proud of the ambitious proposals the Commission has tabled for the flagship programmes in this field, Erasmus and Creative Europe, for the EU's next long-term budget. We need to reinforce these programmes to ensure that we make our vision of a European Education Area a reality, and that we fully harness the potential of culture in driving economic and social development, as set out in our European Agenda for Culture. Europe's regions have a vital part to play in this. That is why I am pleased with the Committee of the Regions' continued support – we need to keep working together to ensure our efforts in education and culture benefit citizens and business across all of Europe."
President of the European Committee of the Regions, Karl-Heinz Lambertz, remarked, "By doubling the budget for the Erasmus and investing €2bn into the Creative Europe programme, the EU is opening new horizons for millions more people. Investing in culture and education is an investment in shared our future. We need to ensure that the opportunity to study and work in other EU countries is for everyone, regardless of background. This is an essential building block for if we want to build an open, dynamic, diverse and more united Europe".
Regions' and cities' recommendations for the Erasmus programme were presented by Ulrike Hiller (DE/PES), Member of the Senate and Representative of the Free Hanseatic City of Bremen to the Federal Government. The opinion, which was adopted at the CoR plenary session on 6 February, calls to ensure equal access to opportunities by addressing obstacles such as language barriers or learning disabilities. The programme should provide support for linguistic and intercultural preparatory measures and include more incentives to promote mobility in the field of vocational training and apprenticeships. Study grants should be exempt from taxation and regularly adjusted to the real cost of living in the host region.
"Learning experience in another European country significantly boosts the development of future-oriented vocational skills and is closely associated with the development of a European identity. Erasmus has been a success story and it must be strengthened to give all young Europeans a chance to profit from mobility", rapporteur Ulrike Hiller said.
The 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. It calls for a more transparent and equitable distribution of resources over the entire seven-year period (2021-27) and advocates that the application process, project management and documentation requirements should be significantly simplified for all areas of the programme. Further suggestions include developing gradually cooperation possibilities with institutions in Southern and Eastern Mediterranean countries and in Africa.
Regarding the new DiscoverEU initiative which provides free rail travel passes for young people, the Committee believes that its outreach could be improved through financing via public-private partnerships, particularly with partners from the mobility and tourism sector.
The CoR plenary session also adopted an opinion on the Creative Europe programme led by rapporteur János Ádám Karácsony (HU/EPP), local councillor of Tahitótfalu. Given the significantly higher number of priorities in the new programme, the CoR opinion proposes to raise the budgetary target to over EUR 2 billion from the proposed EUR 1.85 billion and to better incorporate culture and cultural heritage throughout the priorities of the next EU budget.
As cities and regions have a key role in promoting and celebrating the artistic and cultural life of their communities, the opinion calls for enhancing the participation of regional and local authorities in the programme. "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", rapporteur Karácsony said.
The 8th European Summit of Regions and Cities, 14-15 March, Bucharest #EULocal
The next generation of EU programmes in the context of the EU long-term budget for 2021-2027 will be among the points for discussion during the 8th European Summit of Regions and Cities to be held in Bucharest, Romania, on 14-15 March – just two weeks before the U.K.'s expected exit from the EU on 29 March, and two months ahead of the European elections
Over 500 European, national, regional and local leaders from all EU Member States will be welcomed over in the Romanian capital to focus on the contribution of local and regional governments to the "Future of Europe". Under the title "(Re) New EUrope", the Summit will be the largest political gathering of mayors, regional presidents and other elected local and regional representatives from across the Union this year.
The event will also gather 100 young local and regional politicians to actively engage in the debate on the future of Europe. It will also see the official launch of the Committee's initiative on a new Network of Regional Hubs (#RegHub) in the presence of the 20 participating regions.
Should you wish to participate in the event, you are kindly requested to register via the media accreditation page of the EU Romanian Presidency (deadline: 1 March) Please note that only registered journalists will be able to get media accreditation to the event.
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