Anne Lambert, UK deputy permanent representative to the EU, attended the Education and Youth Council on behalf on the UK.
Ministers discussed the following issues:
Contribution of the Council (in the field of education) to spring European Council
1. The Council adopted the key messages to the spring European Council without comment.
Looking beyond 2010—developing the ‘Education and Training 2010’ work programme
2. Ministers had an exchange of views on developing the ‘Education and Training 2010’ work programme. The UK said that skills had to form a central part of Europe’s response to globalisation. However, low skills levels are a shared problem among member states, as shown by the EU’s poor track record in reducing early school leaving. The Council should play a stronger role in supporting the necessary reforms by identifying good practice and peer review. The UK asked the Commission to make proposals for focusing the work programme, its structures and working methods, more on the Lisbon integrated guidelines and skills issues.
3. Our comments on the Lisbon agenda were echoed by some member states, including Finland, Denmark and France. However, most Ministers chose to focus on the role of education in social cohesion, rather than growth, jobs and competitiveness.
Contribution of the Council (in the field of youth policy) to the spring European Council on the implementation of the European Pact for Youth
4. The key messages to the spring European Council on the implementation of the European Pact for Youth were adopted without comment.
Reflection paper on the future perspectives for European youth policy
5. Ministers discussed the future form of European youth policy, based on a reflection paper prepared by the presidency. Several member states asked for a stronger role of the Youth Council, for example in co-ordinating exchanges of good practice, and for better co-ordination with other Council formations.
6. The UK said that youth policies are most effective when they were cross-cutting and local. We want to exchange good practice with other these areas. However, co-operation at EU level has to be properly based on local needs and developed as part of an integrated strategy. The Youth Pact and the existing open method of coordination are the right mechanisms for taking this forward. We do not need new structures and mechanisms.
7. Poland and Greece asked for the development of a European action plan on combating violence in schools. The Commission said it would take this topic into account in its forthcoming consultation and Communication on schools policy. Portugal, as the incoming presidency, urged caution. They stated that we should be careful not to over-simplify the problem of violence. More information and data about the situation in the member states was needed before any EU initiative was taken.
8. The Commission circulated a note on a possible European Year linking education, culture and creativity in 2009. An inter-institutional declaration on this subject is expected to be agreed in the second half of 2007.