News

Education and Youth are not a ‘small thing’

Today the European Commission’s president-elect Jean-Claude Juncker announced his “winning team”, a commission in which portfolios are given “to people, not to countries”. AEGEE / European Students’ Forum sees some good developments in the attention given to Citizenship, Mobility and Employment, but has concerns about Education being overshadowed,the total absence of mentioning Non-Formal Education for skills development and employment and the gender composition of the team.

Education portfolio still pressured

As a stakeholder in the fields of Youth, Students and Education, AEGEE-Europe welcomes the establishment of the portfolio on Education, Culture, Youth and Citizenship; particularly after the previous information published at the end of last week by EurActiv (link) on the lack of education portfolio in the new European Commission. However, we would still like to emphasise the importance of Education. With Juncker claiming that he wants the Commission “to be bigger on big things and modest on small things”, we urge that education should not be considered a ‘small thing’ in a Union that depends on knowledge-dependant end-products and in which access to education is stagnating [1].

Combining citizenship into the same portfolio could be a good decision, as it paves the way for better civic education for which we see a great need in Europe. Reaching out to Erasmus+ and ‘Europe for Citizens‘ beneficiaries as a means to strengthen EU understanding, as is mentioned in the mission letter (link) to Tibor Navracsics, is highly welcomed. However, we urge that the focus of citizenship should not only be part of education, and mentioned beneficiaries should not be the only vehicle, but the work on citizenship should also encompass the inclusion of all citizens in the decision-making processes and consultations, including, but not limited to, improving the European Citizens’ Initiatives and facilitating pan-European media attention on European issues.

Juncker and Navracsics. Source: Google

Unemployment tackled, mobility boosted, non-formal education ignored Mr. Juncker has prominently highlighted jobs as one of his top priorities, recognizing that the crisis has taken its toll on employment, leaving more than 6 million people without work. In his mission letter to Marianne Thyssen (link) he acknowledges that “unemployment has reached unacceptably high levels in many parts of Europe, particularly among Europe’s youth”. To remedy this situation, he proposes to present a jobs, growth and investment package within the first three months of the Commission’s term, emphasizing the importance of funding towards projects that can help youth get back to work in decent jobs, as well as accelerating and broadening the implementation of the Youth Guarantee Scheme.

As youth employment is one of AEGEE’s priorities in the upcoming years as well, we are happy to see Mr. Juncker recognizing it as an issue to be dealt with. As a measure to fight unemployment we also welcome labour mobility as an own policy field of Commissioner Marianne Thyssen. In order to deepen the European integration it is essential to promote free movement of workers, and AEGEE-Europe sees access to mobility as one of the fundamental rights of all residents on the European continent (link). One of the key issues in order to achieve labour mobility is the mutual recognition of qualifications. Therefore we strongly support that qualifications obtained in different countries have to be recognised for all European citizens.

In the context of employment, AEGEE would like also like to see an emphasis on recognition and validation of non-formal education, especially when it comes to youth. As a youth NGO and a provider of non-formal education, we believe that non-formal education plays a crucial role in helping young people develop a variety of skills useful and relevant in a wide range of workplaces. Working to get non-formal education recognised is now not explicitly mentioned at all in the mission letters to Mr. Navracsics and Ms. Thyssen.

Furthermore, we hope that the Commission will seek out to engage citizens in improving the current situation regarding youth unemployment. Youth organisations provide young people with skills and competences that help in preparing them for the labour market. Therefore, our opinion is that youth organizations could bring added value in fighting youth unemployment, and should be consulted and involved in this matter.

Gender Balance

AEGEE-Europe is pleased to see that three out of seven Vice-President positions were given to female representatives. This is definitely a good step in the direction of achieving gender balance. However, we still hold the opinion that nine female Commissioners, compared to 19 male ones, is far from equality, and it is not a progress compared to the composition of the Commission of José Manuel Barroso. Given the fact that women constitute over a half of the 507 million population of the European Union (104.8 women per 100 men; Eurostat, 2013) and 60% of tertiary education graduates (Eurostat, 2013), we find it astonishing that EU Member States did not manage to find more female candidates for the position of Commissioners. Representation of women in the Commission. Source: European Commission

If there were truly equal opportunities, the probability of having more than 9 female Commissioners would be more than 95%. However, at the same time, we appreciate the efforts of Jean-Claude Juncker calling for more women representatives in the EC in the previous months and the inclusion of the gender equality portfolio in the DG Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality. Despite the mentioned concerns, AEGEE-Europe sees potential in the change Mr. Juncker wants to make, and hope to see a positive effect. We wish for a fruitful cooperation with Commissioner Tibor Navracsics of Education, Culture, Youth and Citizenship and Marianne Thyssen of Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility. Lastly, we look forward to the efforts of the Commissioner Vera Jourová in taking measures to achieve gender equality.

[1] http://euobserver.com/news/125536