Education, Youth, Culture and Sport Council, 17-18 May 2021 (EU)

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Main results

Education and Youth, 17 May

Equity, inclusion and success in education and training for all

Equity in access, inclusion and success for all are basic principles of education and training. However, equity and inclusion are still a challenge for our educational systems, with significant differences within and between member states. As the socio-economic background remains an important factor influencing educational outcomes in the European Union, the Council approved conclusions on this topic. The number of underachievers and early school leavers is still high in the EU. 20.3% of those with disabilities leave education early. Students with fewer opportunities have lower expectations of completing tertiary education (43.4%) than their peers (82.3%). The conclusions call on member states and the Commission to work together on policies to reduce low-achievement, raise competence levels and prevent unemployment.

Tiago Brandão Rodrigues, Minister of Education of Portugal

Inclusive education and training systems have a fundamental role to play in reducing low-achievement, raising competence levels and preventing unemployment, across the whole spectrum of education and training and in a whole institution approach, in order to enhance equal opportunities and inclusion and promote educational success at all levels and types of education and training. We need to do more to identify education and training measures that can improve educational success for all learners. One way would be to address teacher shortages, in particular in special needs education and in multicultural and multilingual settings.

Tiago Brandão Rodrigues, Minister of Education of Portugal

European Universities initiative

Ministers approved conclusions on the European Universities initiative. The European Universities initiative is a fundamental pillar of the European Education Area to be built by 2025. The Council invites member states to use all available funding mechanisms to support the initiative and recommends more cooperation between education authorities, higher education institutions and stakeholders in order to remove obstacles to cooperation at European level, bearing in mind that the European Universities can be instrumental in building important bridges with their research and challenge-based learning and teaching approaches, creating stronger synergies between the higher education dimension of the European Education Area, the European Research Area and the European Higher Education Area.

Manuel Heitor, Minister of Science, Technology and Higher Education of Portugal

The 41 European Universities alliances are in their early stage of development, but they aim to become the universities of the future, inspiring the transformation of higher education in the EU. We have no doubt that the cooperation across languages, borders and disciplines will help to achieve the ambitious vision of an innovative, globally competitive and attractive European Education Area and European Research Area and to reinforce our common European values.

Manuel Heitor, Minister of Science, Technology and Higher Education of Portugal

Evolving scenarios for the transformation of EU higher education

Following up on the Council conclusions on the European Universities initiative, ministers held a public policy debate to hear opinions and exchange ideas on the future of higher education and, in particular, on the role of higher education institutions as drivers of change towards the digital and green transitions. The debate was framed by three questions: whether European Universities’ alliances should be ‘testbeds’ for interoperability and cooperation between member states regarding European research and teaching career development; what specific measures member states are prepared to take to promote a European approach to quality assurance for joint degrees; and whether they are considering adopting national legislation allowing for micro-credentials in higher education.

Preserving the diversity of higher education in Europe and promoting a common European vision and values for a stronger European identity among youngsters and citizens has become a unique challenge for policy-making in higher education throughout Europe and must be addressed as part of the transformation of EU higher education. Furthermore, bearing this transformation in mind, we need to guarantee that learners have the necessary skills and competences and to ensure integrated long-term education, research and innovation strategies, engaging society at large, in order to strengthen the knowledge landscape across European regions and to boost the quality, attractiveness and societal empowerment of European higher education institutions.

Manuel Heitor, Minister of Science, Technology and Higher Education of Portugal

Participation of young people in decision-making processes

Even though young people are very active in democratic life, they often have fewer opportunities to participate and are underrepresented in decision-making. As they are affected by the whole political agenda, their engagement and involvement in finding responses to today’s challenges are essential.

Today the Council approved conclusions on strengthening multi-level governance when promoting the participation of young people in decision-making processes. The aim of these conclusions is to ensure that all young people have equal opportunities for participation, involvement and empowerment in relevant decision-making processes.

Young people are among those who have been hardest hit by COVID-19 restrictions. Their participation in policy-making is essential as today’s decisions will impact their future. That is why we should all support active and sustainable structures for youth participation in the development of policies.

Tiago Brandão Rodrigues, Minister of Education of Portugal

A rights-based approach to youth policies: The drive for commitment in the future?

In their transition to adulthood, young people face specific challenges which place them in a position of vulnerability. This results in a need to improve young people’s access to rights and should be reflected in a human rights-based youth policy. Ministers held a public debate about how authorities, at all levels, can engage, connect and empower young people.

Other business

  • The presidency reported on the current impact of COVID-19 on education and training and on youth.
  • The incoming Slovenian presidency presented its work programme.

Culture, Audiovisual and Sport, 18 May 

Recovery, resilience and sustainability of the cultural and creative sectors

Culture plays a crucial role for the European identity and has an important social and economic impact. The Council has approved conclusions which restate that the cultural and creative sectors are among the hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic and that there is a need to take decisive policy actions in their support, both as an immediate response and as a more ambitious and far-sighted approach, as the current crisis has exposed some structural challenges and pre-existing vulnerabilities of the cultural and creative sectors. In order to promote the recovery, resilience and sustainability of the cultural and creative sectors, the conclusions identify six priorities, namely: improving access to available funding; enhancing the resilience of professionals in the cultural and creative sectors; further strengthening mobility and cooperation; expediting the digital and green transitions; improving knowledge and preparedness for future challenges; and taking cultural scenes and local communities into account. The Council conclusions also aim to promote fairness and equality for all, giving special attention to the situation of female artists and cultural professionals. The Council calls on member states and the Commission to exchange views on best practices and to take stock of these conclusions in 2023.

Graça Fonseca, Minister of Culture of Portugal

Cinemas, theatres and music festivals were among the first to close when the pandemic started and they are among the last to reopen as we recover from the worst crisis in decades. We need to make sure that the creative and cultural sectors will emerge from the pandemic, ready for the future.

Graça Fonseca, Minister of Culture of Portugal

Europe’s Media in the Digital Decade

The Council has approved conclusions to support the recovery and transformation of the European news media and audiovisual sectors. As both sectors have incurred massive losses because of the COVID-19 pandemic, member states are invited to take advantage of the Recovery and Resilience Facility, which is the EU’s post-crisis financial instrument, and to invest in the acceleration of the digital transformation and green transition of these sectors.

The Council conclusions are a response to the action plan put forward by the Commission last December. It is time for a reflection process on a number of fundamental topics which we are now able to look at from a new perspective. We know this journey will involve rethinking traditional business models, boosting our competitiveness at home and internationally and adeptly surfing the green and digital wave. But it will also mean making the most of our European assets: cultural richness, diversity and creativity.

Graça Fonseca, Minister of Culture of Portugal

Diversification of funding sources and mechanisms for the safeguarding and protection of European cultural heritage

Europe’s cultural heritage is a public good with an important social and economic value. However, its protection is under threat due to budgetary pressure, and this has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 crisis. Ministers discussed how best to financially support the European cultural heritage, where to find new sources of funding and what the best steps would be in the long term.

Sport innovation

The Council has approved conclusions on sport innovation. The Council invites member states to promote and support research and development initiatives and projects in the field of sport innovation, create and disseminate knowledge, and provide tools for better policy development and sport innovation benchmarking.

Around two-thirds of Europe’s economic growth over recent decades has been driven by innovation. Sport innovation can help to increase citizens’ participation in sport and physical activity but is also a tool to protect the integrity of sport and to tackle challenges such as match-fixing and doping.

Tiago Brandão Rodrigues, Minister of Education of Portugal

Sport diplomacy

Sport diplomacy is a relatively new concept at EU level. At the same time, sport has always been used to convey political messages and is part of the diplomatic toolkit of the EU’s global counterparts. EU ministers discussed whether the EU’s cultural and educational diplomacy offers a blueprint for the development of an EU sport diplomacy strategy and what the next steps should be in this regard.

Other business

  • The presidency reported on the current impact of COVID-19 on sport
  • The upcoming Slovenian presidency presented its work programmes for culture/audiovisual affairs and sport
  • The presidency reported on the presidency conferences on culture and the media
  • The EU member state representative of the incumbent trio presidency on the WADA Foundation Board informed ministers about the WADA Executive Committee and Foundation Board meeting
  • The Spanish delegation addressed the impact of video-on-demand (VOD) platforms on the EU’s audiovisual market, in particular on the relationship between the various actors in the value chain
  • The German delegation provided information on the culture policy perspective in the negotiations amending the VAT Directive, especially considering taxation of the art trade
  • The Slovenian delegation reported on the designation of the European Capital of Culture for 2025
  • The Commission provided information on the HealthyLifestyle4All initiative which is planned to be launched in September 2021
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