Nearly one in eight European households includes a child under the age of six. 19 million of them – one in five – are at risk of poverty. Today, for the first time, the Commission launches an action plan aimed at giving every child a better start in life and to lay the foundations for successful lifelong learning, social integration, personal development and employability later in life. The Commission's proposals, which include a call for universal access to quality pre-school education, will also contribute to two of the headline targets of the Commission's 'Europe 2020' strategy – reducing the share of early school leavers to under 10% and to lift at least 20 million people out of the risk of poverty and social exclusion.
A scientist supported by the European Union's Marie Curie research fund has found new evidence that a specific 'asthma gene' is a cause of the respiratory condition in children. The young German scientist, Michaela Schedel, believes that her findings could change our understanding of childhood asthma and lead to new treatments for the potentially fatal condition, which affects 100 million people in Europe and three times as many worldwide.
Commission launches high-level expert group on literacy chaired by Princess Laurentien of the Netherlands
One in five 15-year-olds in Europe, as well as many adults, lack basic reading and writing skills, which makes it harder for them to find a job and puts them at risk of social exclusion. To help tackle the issue, the European Commission has set up an independent group of experts to identify ways of raising literacy levels. The group, which met for the first time today in Brussels, is chaired by Princess Laurentien of the Netherlands, who is a Special Envoy on Literacy for Development for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). EU Ministers have set a target of reducing the share of pupils with difficulties in reading, maths and science to fewer than 15% by 2020.
Nearly 30 cross-border cultural projects supported by the European Union will be showcased today at the "Culture in Motion: Pathways to EU2020" conference in Brussels. The event, bringing together over 600 participants, aims to highlight how innovative cultural partnerships can contribute to the Europe 2020 goals for smart, inclusive and sustainable growth, as well as helping to address other challenges like climate change.
EU Sport Forum: The European Commission's new strategy for sport will be the focus of a two-day meeting of representatives of national, European and international sport organisations in Budapest, Hungary, on 21-22 February. Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou will present her plans on the second day of the forum, which will bring together 250 delegates.
Androulla Vassiliou has welcomed the major success of EU-backed film 'The King's Speech', which was crowned with four Oscars at last night's 83rd Academy Awards ceremony in Hollywood. The film, which received €562 000 in distribution support from the EU MEDIA fund for cinema, scooped the big prizes for Best Picture, Best Director (Tom Hooper), Best Actor (Colin Firth) and best original screenplay (David Seidler). Another MEDIA-backed film, 'In a Better World', directed by Denmark's Susanne Bier, collected the statuette for best foreign language film.
The European Commission today launches a consultation on major improvements to EU research and innovation funding to make participation easier, increase scientific and economic impact and improve value for money. The proposed "Common Strategic Framework", set out in a Green Paper, would cover the current Framework Programme for Research (FP7), the Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme (CIP) and the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT). This will create a coherent set of instruments, along the whole "innovation chain" starting from basic research, culminating in bringing innovative products and services to market, and also supporting non-technological innovation, for example in design and marketing. The Commission's Green Paper also provides the basis for far-reaching simplification of procedures and rules.