Speech at the Culture and Education Committee
European Parliament, 26 October 2010
Check against delivery
Madam Chair, Doris,
Dear colleagues, ladies and gentlemen,
I'm very pleased to be here as part of our structured dialogue, and to exchange views on the priorities for the coming year.
I want to thank the committee for the many valuable reports completed and in the pipeline this year. I am sure we will continue to work closely in 2011 – on the Commission's proposals for the new programmes and in driving forward the agenda for education and culture.
Let me start with the Europe 2020 strategy. Tomorrow the Commission adopts its Work Programme for 2011. This marks the beginning of our path towards the Europe 2020 objectives – and the moment we start to implement our flagship initiatives.
The core message of Europe 2020 is clear and simple. If we are to exit the crisis with our social model and our global position intact, we need smart, inclusive and sustainable growth.
This mirrors exactly our purpose in education and training: we must pursue both excellence and equity. There can be no trade-off between the two.
Youth on the Move, my flagship initiative for education and training, is built on these two pillars of excellence and equity.
We need to give people the tools that will allow them to realise their full potential in the Knowledge-Based Society. Europeans must be able to respond to the rising demand for higher skills on the job market. Our universities must rank among the best in the world.
But we have to ensure that education brings opportunity to everyone, and helps to reduce inequalities. Not everyone has found their place in the new economy.
For some groups in our society, it is not enough just to provide the tools for the knowledge economy, since they are often excluded from the outset. We must actively integrate them into our education and training systems, both formal and informal.
Youth on the Move sits at the heart of Europe 2020. I believe it provides the political focus for our work together – in this Committee – and brings new energy to the education and training reforms of our Member States.
Let me say a few words about we how we will start to implement Youth on the Move.
Next year we will launch a new strategic initiative on Modernising Higher Education.
Our aims are clear:
- to broaden access for students of all backgrounds, and move closer to the European target of 40% of young people completing tertiary education;
- to ensure that graduates acquire employable skills;
- to bring more openness and transparency into our higher-education system, so that everyone can see the full diversity of what our institutions have to offer;
- to position our universities on the global stage, so that Europe's higher education area is synonymous with excellence.
Let me mention two initiatives that we are considering.
To promote greater openness, we will examine the feasibility of a new system for mapping the different strengths of our universities. Such a system would fully reflect the diversity of Europe's higher-education systems, and help students to make an informed choice about where they can study.
We will also examine the feasibility of an EU-level student loan facility, in cooperation with the European Investment Bank and other financial institutions. Our aim is to boost transnational student mobility, and improve young people's access to higher education.
Now let me return to the balance between excellence and equity.
For higher education to become truly inclusive, we have a responsibility to invest upstream in our schools. I will propose a Recommendation to Member States on policies to combatearly school-leaving. This is our second European target in education: to reduce early school-leaving to below 10%.
Today almost 1 in 7 young people start life with poor qualifications, or none at all. We must take urgent action to stop this waste of human potential.
This is what I mean by our search for equity. A young person who leaves school early is starting life with a burden that she or he is likely to carry for ever. We must try to break this cycle.
Our Recommendation will set out the strategies for prevention and intervention; and for re-engaging school drop-outs to bring them back into education and training.
I want to stress that lifelong learning continues to serve as our guiding principle. It remains the backbone of our education and training strategy. We must ensure that people have the opportunities to expand their knowledge and skills throughout life.
In this spirit, I will also propose a Recommendation on non-formal and informal learning. National qualification frameworks should recognise skills developed outside formal education and training. We need to create more openings for people to move between vocational training and university.
Lifelong learning is also the guiding light for our funding programmes in education and training. As we look to put Europe back on the path to smart, sustainable and inclusive growth, I am convinced that our programmes are more necessary than ever before.
If we think about how the European Union can best add value to the efforts of our Member States, then the case for our education and training programmes is clear and convincing:
- our programmes contribute directly to smart and inclusive growth;
- they make a real difference to the lives of millions of Europeans, and are one of the EU's strongest symbols;
- they are hugely in demand – a demand we cannot meet with current resources;
- they are well-managed and efficient.
We will come to you next year with our proposals for the next generation of programmes. I appeal to you: let's be ambitious.
I know this Committee is a proud supporter of these programmes, and I am pleased that our cooperation over the years has made them the success they are today.
I am also convinced that maintaining their strong brand identities is the right thing to do. However, it is also the right moment to find new ways to increase their impact:
- through synergies between the programmes;
- by streamlining the objectives and actions;
- by simplifying procedures;
- and by developing their capacity to draw supporting funds from other sources.
I propose now to share some ideas on the Cultural and Creative Industries before finishing with some words on sport.
This has been a crucial year in putting culture and the creative industries on the political agenda.
The creative sector plays a central role in sparking innovation; in strengthening skills; and promoting cultural diversity while exploiting all the opportunities of the digital shift.
I believe the EU's role is to help Europe's cultural and creative industries to make the transition to digital platforms and new business models. We can bring the benefits of the Single Market to culture, but in an intelligent fashion that recognises where markets fail, and where cultural actors need public support.
This means putting in place a regulatory framework for copyright that promotes cultural diversity and encourages creativity among cultural actors of all sizes.
In the audiovisual sector, we should encourage the move towards pan-European licences for those rights-holders that want them, while respecting the basic principle of contractual freedom.
Next year we will take forward the issues raised in the consultation on the Green Paper in a new Communication. Our goal is to foster an environment where the creative industries can flourish by:
- making it easier to access funding;
- monitoring the needs for new skills;
- embedding these industries in regional development strategies;
- and setting up creative partnerships with education, business and public bodies.
A vibrant creative sector not only creates economic growth and empowers people; it is also the best guardian of Europe's cultural diversity.
We will follow through our Communication on digital cinema with a support scheme for cinemas that are converting to digital technology.
This support is necessary. If we let cinemas close because the costs of digital conversion are too high, then we put our cultural diversity at risk. This is what we mean by promoting the public interest in culture. Markets alone cannot do the job; public support is required.
Since we are speaking about European identity, I want to thank the Committee for your excellent work on the European Heritage Label, on which you vote tomorrow.
I look forward to continuing our cooperation in order to achieve the best possible text. Let's work together so that the Label wins the credibility and prestige it deserves.
Finally, Madam Chair,
I will present a Communication on Sport this year. This will set out a policy framework for European and national action to promote sport's social and educational role.
Our Communication will offer guidance and support to the sports movement at all levels – amateur and professional – and signal our commitment to strengthen dialogue with them.
Budget constraints at national and European level do not allow us to establish a meaningful EU sport programme for 2012. But I believe it will be important to support our future policy with practical action at European level.
We will continue the preparatory actions that have already launched more than 30 transnational projects in the last two years. The 2011 budget – for which you have fought so hard – will finance actions into 2012 and beyond.
We will then be in a position to evaluate actions across more than a dozen areas of sports policy, and follow up with a thorough impact assessment. This will give us a solid basis on which to decide the best form of future EU action.
I've started to talk about budgets. Let me finish by saying how grateful I am for this Committee's support and your personal efforts to resist the budget cuts being proposed by the Council for 2011.
In parallel to our preparations for the new programmes, the mid-term Budget Review has already triggered a passionate debate about the next Financial Framework.
Together, we have a unique opportunity to reform our budget so that it properly serves the political goals of the European Union.
Europe 2020 is a blueprint for the knowledge-based society, and education rightly sits at the heart of it. We must now make the case for an EU budget that reflects these priorities.
It is education that will help to put Europe on the path of smart and inclusive growth. It is education that helps us to fight some of the deepest inequalities in our society. It is education that can integrate our different communities at a time of rising social tension.
I look forward to working with you all as we address some of the most urgent challenges facing the European Union. And I hope I can count on your support as we debate the future of the budget.