By Androulla Vassiliou - 7th December 2011
It has never been more important for Europe to invest in the talents of its people in order to prepare them for the future
Education and creativity are the keys to promoting European growth and employment, writes Androulla Vassiliou.
The economic crisis continues to keep Europe in a tight grip and unemployment, especially youth unemployment, is shockingly high. At the same time, Europe is undergoing a transition towards a knowledge-based economy which will create new and different demands on its labour force.
Education and creativity are essential for growth, jobs and innovation, especially in these times of crisis. In short, it has never been more important for Europe to invest in the talents of its people in order to prepare them for the future.
The Europe 2020 strategy places a strong emphasis on education and creativity as a path to recovery. That is why the commission is proposing to invest €19bn in education, training, youth and sport in 2014-2020.
This constitutes an increase of about 70 per cent compared to the budget for 2007-2013. The commission also wants to boost Europe’s cultural and creative sectors, vital contributors to the economy and labour market, by setting up a major support scheme for these areas with a budget of €1.8bn, a 37 per cent increase compared to the current scheme.
The total investment we are proposing in the area of education and creativity represents less than 1.8 per cent of the overall EU budget for 2014-2020 and a tiny fraction of national budgets.
The best-known EU education programme is Erasmus. It is because of the wide public awareness of the Erasmus brand that I proposed to name the new comprehensive programme ‘Erasmus for all’.
Under this new programme, the EU will not only help higher education students, but also those in vocational training and young people in non-formal learning, such as volunteering, to acquire new skills abroad, as well as teachers, trainers and youth workers.
Through Erasmus for all, the number of people who would benefit from EU grants to go abroad to learn and develop would nearly double to nearly five million.
The benefits for these individuals will also benefit the EU economy as a whole. The commission is also proposing new initiatives, including a loan guarantee scheme to help Master’s degree students abroad.
Higher education students are an important focus for the new programme, but we also propose to fund learning periods abroad for more than 700,000 vocational students and for nearly 550,000 young people to be able to volunteer in a foreign country or participate in youth exchanges.
Teachers are crucial for improving the education system – and play a fundamental role in developing skills. That is why we also want to create more opportunities for teachers to study, train and teach abroad.
Under Erasmus for all, nearly one million teachers, trainers, other staff and youth workers would benefit. These initiatives would be coupled with a renewed drive to modernise education and training through cross-border cooperation.
Higher education institutions, youth organisations and other actors, in particular businesses, would link up through strategic partnerships to foster innovative approaches in education and to bring the world of work closer to the world of education.
Similarly, the successful eTwinning initiative, which connects schools via the internet, would be strengthened and extended to vocational training, adult learning and youth. Finally, Erasmus for all would support the European dimension of grassroots sports and the fight against doping, violence and racism in sport.
Creativity is a core element of the push towards a new knowledge-driven economy. The creative sector, including culture, cinema, TV and the video games industry is a strong and growing contributor to the economy, accounting for 4.5 per cent of the EU’s GDP and 8.5 million jobs.
Yet the potential for this sector remains underexploited. Creative Europe would bring together the current culture, media and media Mundus programmes, and provide additional support and funding.
EU investment would help artists, culture and audiovisual professionals to make the most of the opportunities created by the single market. Without this support, it would be difficult or impossible for them to reach new audiences.
Creative Europe is also promoting cultural and linguistic diversity, as well as contributing to our objectives for job creation and sustainable growth. The new programme would allocate more than €900m in support of the cinema and audiovisual sector and almost €500m for culture.
We also propose to allocate more than €210m for a new financial guarantee facility, which would enable small operators to access up to €1bn in bank loans, as well as funding for policy cooperation to foster innovation.
In 2014-2020, Creative Europe would help 300,000 artists and cultural professionals and their works to reach new audiences. More than 1000 European films and 2500 cinemas would receive support, and the EU would finance the translation of over 5000 books.
At least 100 million citizens would be directly reached through the projects financed by the programme.
My wish to increase investment in education, youth, creativity and innovation stems from my conviction that these are growth areas where Europe can make a difference by speeding up the transition to a knowledge-based economy.
Erasmus for all and Creative Europe will make a solid contribution to the prosperity and wellbeing of citizens. The commission’s proposals will now be discussed by member states and the parliament, which will make the final decision on the future EU budget.
I hope they will follow the commission’s proposals and invest in our future.
Androulla Vassiliou is European commissioner for education, culture, multilingualism and youth