The French Presidency of the Council of the European Union announced its priorities for the ongoing semester. Built on the main structure of the Conference on the Future of Europe, they are said to be taking into account citizens’ recommendations as to what Europe should look like in 2030.
The polar star seems to stay on the beaten path of other EU priorities like the European Education Area and the European Green deal, only to name a couple. The French Presidency will seek to lay the groundwork for far-reaching changes:
- A new growth and investment model for the European Union and the euro area;
- European values, with protection instruments for our democracies;
- Young people, with the expansion of the Erasmus programme;
- Culture, with the Europe Academy bringing together some 100 academics from 27 countries in all subjects to enlighten European debate;
- Health, with a genuine joint research agency and major research plans, for example, for Alzheimer’s.
Education and training play a large role in the programmatic document, as it extends over the three main strands: 1) digital technology; 3) ecological transition; and 3) social agenda. In the fields of education, youth, culture and sport, the French Presidency will focus its work on measures aimed at supporting young people, improving their mobility and incorporating sustainable development as a cross-cutting issue. Part of the goal is to increase mobility for students from all vocational courses, and such will be the focus of the Erasmus+ 35th anniversary event in January. At the same time, a new strategy for higher education will be discussed in Paris at the beginning of the semester.
This structured focus on education is refreshing news, in a moment where it seems to have lost momentum in the European policy arena. Because of this, it is a great step forward to bring Education and Finance Ministers together in January, to continue the conversation started under the Finnish Presidency. However, it is a pity that the Presidency has shown the will to address education issues without concrete provisions for lifelong learning, which sadly finds its place once again only amid employment provisions. Here the French Presidency pledges to work towards the Council’s adoption of recommendations on individual learning accounts, as well as lifelong training and guidance. However, such a view is self-limiting: lifelong learning should be an integral and transversal part of a Just Recovery and a Just Transition: LLLP shall not fail to represent this view.