Is the European Union's youth policy up to the job in today's difficult economic and social climate? Can the European Union do more to help sports organisations tackle doping? Will the proposed EU-US Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership affect the EU's commitment to cultural diversity?
These are just some of the issues which will be in the spotlight at the Council for Education, Youth, Culture and Sport on 16-17 May. The European Commission will be represented by Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou (Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth), and Vice-President Joaquín Almunia (Competition), who will participate in an exchange of views on the planned new State aid rules for cinema. Ministers are expected to adopt conclusions on maximising the impact of youth policy for growth and jobs.
"Equipping young people with the skills they need to improve their employability is our top priority. Education in all its forms is the basis for these skills and high-quality youth work can make a real difference. We are supporting Member States with funding from a variety of EU programmes. Our new education and youth programme, Erasmus for All, will enable nearly 4 million young people to gain valuable international experience and skills by providing grants to study, train or volunteer abroad," said Commissioner Vassiliou ahead of the meeting.
On 16 May, the Council is expected adopt conclusions on the social dimension of higher education. Many countries share the Commission's concern about high drop-out rates and the need for a better alignment between what is being taught in higher education and the diverse learning requirements of students. The Council will invite Member States to adopt national measures to ensure that people from all social groups can access and successfully complete higher education. These measures include improved financial support and counselling for students, providing more opportunities to transfer from vocational training to higher education, and increasing the flexibility of courses to make it easier to combine work and studies. The Irish Presidency will update Ministers on the negotiations between the Council, European Parliament and Commission on Erasmus for All, the new programme for education, training, youth and sport, due for launch in January. The programme is expected to have a budget of around €14.5 billion for 2014-2020 - 40% more than the current programmes.