Thursday, 30 June 2011

European Commission proposes new multiannual financial framework for 2014-2020

On 29th June 2011 the European Commission published its proposal for the next Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) of the EU: A Budget for Europe 2020. It is the financial basis for the period 2014-2020 and sets the frame for the follow up structure of all current EU programmes as well as the entire EU budget.
As expected the EC -driven by the current financial situation - proposed a streamlined budget focussed close on the Europe 2020 strategy.

For Education for Democratic Citizenship and Human Rights Education there are several upcoming changes and challenges:

First of all the EC proposes under the Heading 1 "Smart and inclusive Growth" a new structure of an overarching educationa programme named Education in Europe including the - until now separated - Youth In Action programme and Erasmus Mundus programme as well as the current Lifelong Learning Programme. "The Europe 2020 headline targets on incresing tertiary education and reducing early school leaving will not be reached without a stronger investment in human capital. [...] Therefore,  the commission proposes to rationalise and simplify the current structure by proposing a single, integrated programme on education, training and youth. The focus will be on developing the skills and mobility of human capital. [...] The application and the monitoring and evaluation of projects will be simplified, including through the management of projects by national agencies." [Communication EC: A Budget for Europe 2020, COM(2011) 500 final, p.18.]
The Commission proposes a budget of 15.2 billion in the areas of EAT 2014-2020 which is ~5.x billion € more than in the current LLP, YiA and Erasmus Mundus Programmes spent 2007-2013. So far so good.

According to the EC communication to the Parliament (A Budget for Europe 2020 - Part II policy fiches) the new programme will focus on:
* providing targeted transnational learning opportunities;
* matching skills and labour market demand in order to boost the employability, entrepreneurial spirit and participation of young people;
* volunteering as well as non-formal and informal learning; and
* supporting widespread reforms and the modernisation of education and training systems throughout Europe and beyond.

Concretely, the programme will comprise three main lines of action:
(1) Trans-national learning mobility - as many as 800,000 EU citizens, mainly students, could be helped to be mobile each year.
(2) Co-operation activities between education institutions and the world of work will be supported to promote the modernisation of education, innovation and entrepreneurship.
(3) Policy support will be provided to gather evidence on the effectiveness of education investments and to help Member States implement effective policies.

There are many problems related to this proposal: the merger into an integrated programme may cause difficulties for the European cooperation in the field of youth. Future European Councils on Youth and meetings of youth ministers may not take place anymore if the youth field is just summarised and reduced to the educational aspects. Further the common implementation of the recently adopted European strategy for the Youth is at risk.
For the work of EDC/HRE the proposed integrated programme may be in so far complicated as the current Youth in Action programme is clearly targeted on Citizenship and HR issues and the current proposal of the EC is not mentioning these aims explicitely. In contrary the Communication explicitely marks out that the aim is to boost in the future integrated programme especially the area of initial vocational education in order to tackle youth uneployment. This is in regard to the enormous youth unemployment rates among EU member states ok, but should not be built by throwing away the importance of learning and participating in civil society!

The current Grundvig program (as well as all other current LLP-programme lines) will stay merged in the future integrated programme. However the communication does not loose a word about the future shape of Adult Education, but at least mentions the importance of adult education. In this regard the communique says only: "there is scope to increase EU support for all levels of formal education and training (school, higher, vocational, adult) as well as informal and non-formal education and training activities." [ibid. p.17]. There needs to be done a lot of work in order not to marginalise the current GRUNDTVIG programme which made a clear and valuable contribution for purposes of Citizenship and Human Rights Education.

The only part of the Education program that currently seems to adress EDC/HRE issues is the new Sport sub-programme "tackling transnational threats that are specific to sport such as doping, violence, racism and intolerance, or issues relating to the integrity of competitions and sportspersons" [A Budget for Europe 2020 - Part II policy fiches, p. 30]

The growth of the budget foreseen for Education in Europe is around 50% compared to the current LLP + Youth, +Erasmus Mundus. This is in general good news!

Never the less the next months will show how the structure of the future Education programme will look like in detail and in how far the issues of citizenship and HR will be maintained. It seems highly important for NGO´s devoted to EDC/HRE to use all channels possible to communicate to the decision making leves to keep in the programme a strong focus on Citizenship and HR issues as important elements of future Human Capital in the EU. This proposed Education for Europe programme clearly needs a civil society component aside!

Thesecond  future programme relevant for EDC/HRE is summarised under the Heading 3 of the proposed Budget "Security and Citizenship". It contains among others the issues of Rights and Citizenship and Europe for Citizens. While the overall budget for Security and Citizenship is increasing on almost 40% from 10.270 billion € to  18.535 billion €,  the budget to be spent for the Europe for Citizens programme faces in fact a decrease from 215 million € to  203 Million €. This is a severe cut, as the current Europe for Citizens Programme is already overrun by proposals. Again  NGO´s should link up with the Members of the European Parliament as natural ally in the negotiations on the Multiannual Financial Framework.

A third pillar where citizenship education and non formal learning might be of importance is the European Social Fund (84 billion € or 25 percent of the allocated budget proposed.  The ESF is managed on the national/regional level and according to the proposal "the European Social Fund (ESF) will
provide funding for structural actions for economic, social and territorial cohesion. Funding will be concentrated on the key priorities of the Europe 2020 strategy, in particular through four 'investment windows':
  1. employment promotion; 
  2. investment in skills, education and lifelong learning; 
  3. social inclusion and the fight against poverty; and 
  4. enhancing institutional capacity and efficient public administration.

The detailed breakdown of the MFF contentwise and financially will be negotiated by the EC´s Directorates General as well as with the European Parliament. Therefore it is recommended to have a close look at the coming proposals as well as to come up with ideas re EDC/HRE to the EP contacts as well as to the respective DG´s of the European commission. Especially in the situation of this giant financial crisis the EU is asked to come up with ideas and content that give a future perspective for a vital and supportive civil society embracing further European integration.

Freely spoken out of an EDC/HRE perspective this proposal looks at first glance contentwise like a step back compared to the programmes generation 2007-2013. It is hard to predict at this time what the planned actions will exactly look like, but it seems to be reasonable that the existing structure of shaped sub-programmes will be somehow maintained. Especially given the fact that the budget for the proposed programme is substantially increased there might be hope for the issues affecting civil society and non-formal learning  in both the adult and the youth field. But there needs to be a lot of work done to keep these issues on the agenda. Therefore it will be most interesting to get a better idea about the detailed structure in November when the proposals for the program lines are being communicated.

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