The European Union and China are preparing to take their co-operation to a new level on issues relating to education, culture, youth, research and multilingualism.
Androulla Vassiliou, European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth, is in Beijing to finalise plans for the launch of a "people-to-people" dialogue covering these areas. Its aim is to deepen understanding and mutual trust by supporting exchanges between the two strategic partners.
Commissioner Vassiliou will meet her counterpart in the Chinese administration, State Councillor Liu Yandong, to pave the way for the new framework for cooperation, which will be officially launched before the end of the year.
Commissioner Vassiliou commented: "This new pillar of co-operation will take relations between the EU and China to a higher level. It will open up space for dialogue on a very wide range of issues, bringing real benefits to both European and Chinese citizens. It will mark a very important step forward in the EU-China relationship."
The new EU-China High-Level People-to-People Dialogue will represent a 'third pillar' in relations between the two partners, building on two previous cooperation agreements - the High-Level Economic and Trade Dialogue ('first pillar') and the High-Level Strategic Dialogue ('second pillar'). The people-to-people dialogue will enjoy the same status as the other agreements and will have flexible structure with very low financial implications. Its first formal meeting will take place in 2012.
Concrete 'deliverables' already planned include the establishment of an EU-China Higher Education Council and joint scholarship schemes aimed at encouraging opportunities for EU and Chinese students and teachers to study in each other's territories. The two partners will also develop a joint strategy and programme for the 2012 EU-China Year of Intercultural Dialogue, which also aims to contribute to better understanding and dialogue.
EU-China cooperation on education, training, culture, research, youth and multilingualism has rapidly developed over the past decade.
More than 2000 Chinese students have benefitted from Erasmus Mundus grants to study in the EU, with 200 EU students going to China.
In addition, around 550 Chinese researchers have received funding for research work abroad through the EU's Marie Curie Actions since 2007, some working on large scale international projects (worth a total of €314 million) and others involved in smaller schemes (worth €3.8 million). More than 60 Chinese universities participate in EU exchanges.
The Chinese government offers support to EU primary and secondary school educators and students who want to learn Chinese through the China-EU Language Exchange Project. A new joint EU-China scholarship scheme will soon be launched to ensure more balance and reciprocity in the numbers of exchanges.