Education ministers took stock of the preparedness of EU education systems to respond to crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic or the war in Ukraine. They adopted a recommendation for even more effective European higher education cooperation. Ministers also approved Council conclusions on a European strategy empowering higher education institutions for the future of Europe and Council conclusions on enhancing teachers’ and trainers’ mobility, in particular European mobility, during their initial and in-service training.
Youth ministers adopted a recommendation on the mobility of young volunteers across the European Union and approved conclusions on fostering engagement among young people as actors of change in order to protect the environment.
Recent events have shown that education systems are heavily affected by crises. The COVID-19 pandemic has had a considerable impact on schools and universities. Today, the war in Ukraine is hitting children and young people in general particularly hard. Recognising that access to education is essential, the EU member states have mobilised to urgently host millions of children and students. In order to assess their needs and provide coordinated responses, an informal ministerial meeting on Ukraine took place via video conference on 16 March 2022, with regular follow-up meetings held.
At the meeting of the Council of Ministers on 5 April, ministers invited the Ukrainian Minister for Education and Science, Serhii Shkarlet, to address the Council. They also took stock of the work of the coordination group before continuing their discussion on the best response to the situation in Ukraine. More broadly, discussions focused on the need to jointly identify the best instruments and mechanisms at EU level to cushion the impact of any current and future crises on our education systems.
The Council approved conclusions on a European strategy empowering higher education institutions for the future of Europe and a recommendation on building bridges for effective European higher education cooperation.
The Council conclusions on a European strategy empowering higher education institutions for the future of Europe call for support for European cooperation around four cardinal points: enhancing the European dimension of higher education and research, promoting Europe’s role and leadership at global level, strengthening Europe’s recovery and response to the green and digital transitions, and deepening the sense of belonging to Europe.
In order to put this strategy into practice, the Council recommendation on transnational cooperation sets out the action that the member states and the EU will take within one year. In particular, it aims to pilot a European label for joint degrees from 2022, which will open the way for a future European degree. It also makes it possible to test new instruments to regularise cooperation between institutions, for example through a statute for alliances. It also takes steps towards future European funding covering all the missions of European universities.
In their conclusions on enhancing the mobility of teachers and trainers, ministers invite member states to remove existing barriers, offer organisational and financial support and encourage the mobility of teachers and future teachers.
The Council adopted a recommendation on the mobility of young volunteers across the EU. The recommendation focuses on young people with the fewest opportunities. Member states should promote accessible information and targeted awareness-raising concerning volunteering activities abroad among these young people.
Ministers also discussed the mobility of young volunteers during a policy debate. They addressed the barriers that impede volunteering and the mobility of young volunteers, such as differences between the various national administrative and regulatory frameworks and a lack of recognition for the value of the experience that young volunteers gain and the skills they develop. Ministers also discussed possible measures to foster synergies between national/regional volunteering activities and European solidarity and mobility programmes for volunteers, as well as new EU measures to promote solidarity and mobility among young European volunteers.
In the current context of mass arrivals of people fleeing the war in Ukraine, ministers heard from Vadym Huttsait, the Ukrainian Minister for Youth and Sport. The Council also recognised that the actions of young volunteers at EU level have a role to play in promoting democratic values and peace, and should therefore be encouraged and facilitated. The Council also underlined the particular importance of these solidarity actions, which young Europeans are undertaking with conviction. The Council highlighted that volunteering enables young people to engage in a structured, concrete and effective way to provide assistance to refugees in need.
The Council conclusions on fostering engagement among young people as actors of change in order to protect the environment, which were also approved today by youth ministers, promote the active engagement of young people in environmental protection and aim to create the right conditions for such engagement by better educating young people on environmental issues, providing them with spaces for expression and action, encouraging volunteering, and recognising this engagement in their school, university and professional paths.
The Czech delegation presented the work programme for education and youth for its upcoming presidency.
The presidency informed delegations of the support from the ministers of 26 member states for a statement on the development of a shared vision on the effectiveness, efficiency and fairness of investment in education.
The Cypriot minister informed his colleagues about the third high-level meeting of education ministers during the ninth Environment for Europe ministerial conference (to be held in Nicosia from 5 to 7 October 2022).
Ministers for culture and media and ministers for sport discussed the European response to the war in Ukraine in their respective policy areas. They also approved conclusions on reinforcing intercultural exchanges through the mobility of artists and multilingualism, on a European strategy for the cultural and creative industries ecosystem, and on sport and physical activity as a lever to transform behaviour for sustainable development. Finally, sport ministers discussed the promotion of European values through sport and the organisation of sport.
Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified invasion of Ukraine has forced hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians, including many artists, journalists, and cultural and media workers, to flee the war. The indiscriminate shelling of urban centres in Ukraine also endangers Ukraine’s cultural heritage.
Ministers invited the Ukrainian Minister for Culture, Oleksandr Tkachenko, to address the Council via videoconference. They then exchanged views on the various measures already taken both at member state and EU level to support the Ukrainian cultural sector. They also explored the possibility of further joint actions to ensure the coherence, complementarity and coordination of efforts in support of the cultural, creative and media sectors and their stakeholders in response to this crisis.
This exchange of views follows up on the informal meeting of EU culture and media ministers held in Angers on 7 and 8 March, where ministers approved a declaration on the situation in Ukraine.
The Council approved conclusions on reinforcing intercultural exchanges through the mobility of artists and cultural and creative professionals, and through multilingualism in the digital era. These conclusions call on member states to promote cooperation between cultural authorities and those responsible for administrative issues related to mobility. The EU wishes to encourage mobility and exchanges among European artists and creative and cultural professionals, in particular by guaranteeing them better access to mobility opportunities within the EU.
The conclusions also call for the development of an ambitious digital policy for the development of language technologies, translation and lifelong language learning and teaching. The EU wants to take advantage of new technologies to foster multilingualism, which nurtures cultural exchanges and facilitates access to culture.
The Council also approved conclusions on building a European strategy for the cultural and creative industries ecosystem, a sector that employed 8.02 million people in the EU in 2019. The strategy is structured around five pillars:
Ministers listened to the testimony of their Ukrainian counterpart, Vadym Huttsait, who spoke via videoconference. They then discussed what role sport stakeholders could play in promoting and defending European values. The war in Ukraine and the strong, united and solidarity-based reaction it has prompted from the member states, private and public organisations and European citizens have demonstrated a strong commitment to the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights. Sport, through its universal reach as well as its organisational model in Europe, must continue to live up to the expectations and aspirations of European citizens. Ministers also emphasised the role of the sport movement in defending these European values and showing solidarity with the Ukrainian people.
Following on from the Council Resolution adopted on 30 November 2021 on the key features of a European sport model, ministers also deliberated on the development of the organisation of sport in Europe, in order to respond to the emergence of new stakeholders, new practices and new expectations of civil society. By maintaining a common foundation around the social, educational, cultural and health functions of sport, ministers discussed proposals for structural change which the sport movement is invited to act upon.
The Council approved conclusions on sport and physical activity, a promising lever to transform behaviour for sustainable development.
The aim of the text is to speed up behavioural change among individual and collective practitioners, producers and consumers of sporting goods and services, businesses involved in sports infrastructure, and organisers of events to reduce the impact that each of those has on the environment, biodiversity and climate. The text also calls to better position sport as a lever for education and for taking account of the Sustainable Development Goals.
Member states, the Commission and the sport movement have already made significant efforts and progress in this area. The conclusions take account of these efforts, but are aimed at accelerating them, intensifying them and, above all, accentuating their European dimension.
Two years after the Olympic and Paralympic Games returned to Europe – first the summer games, then the winter ones – ministers wished to affirm their determination to ensure that all sporting events be eco-responsible and sustainable.
The Slovak Minister for Culture informed delegations about the selection of Trenčín as 2026 European Capital of Culture.
Italy shared information about the Conference of the Ministers for Culture of the Euro-Mediterranean region to be held in Naples on 16-17 June 2022.
Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania stressed the need to coordinate European actions in the culture and media field to support Ukraine.
During the policy debate, the Polish delegation detailed the impact of the war in Ukraine on the sports sector in Europe.
Finally, the Czech delegation presented the work programme of its forthcoming presidency in the field of culture, audiovisual and sports.
The Council also adopted without discussion the items on the list of legislative and non-legislative ‘A’ items.
The EU will provide macro-financial assistance of €150 million to the Republic of Moldova. It is aimed at supporting Moldova’s economic stabilisation and reform agenda. The assistance will contribute to strengthening Moldova’s resilience in the current geopolitical context. The Council adopted this decision today.