Ministers of Youth and Education for EU Member States met on 23 November 2015 in Brussels for the first part of the 'Education, Youth, Culture and Sports' Council. Following the tragic events in Paris on 13 November 2015, the Ministers discussed the need to prevent radicalisation by reinforcing social inclusion and preventing the marginalisation of young people.
Claude Meisch, Minister for National Education, Childhood and Youth, chaired the Council. During the press conference, he remarked that the Ministers examined how education, schools, childcare facilities and youth initiatives could contribute towards preventing such 'barbaric acts'.
He said that there was a need to understand why young Europeans were being pushed towards radicalisation, why they felt marginalised and had no prospects for the future. According to Claude Meisch, the Ministers came to the conclusion that investing in schools, education systems, childcare facilities and youth programmes 'must become a top priority for European and national policies'.
'By combatting school dropout rates, by offering greater scope for youth political participation, by fostering academic achievement for children from migrant backgrounds, by targeting young migrants using youth-work tools, by providing quality support from a very early age aimed at preparing all children for the challenges of school, by imparting European values to young people, by ensuring education in citizenship and social cohesion, we have the means to prevent the radicalisation and marginalisation of so many young people', stated Claude Meisch. He stressed that European education systems must 'adapt to a multicultural situation', recalling that it is often children from migrant backgrounds that are at risk of leaving school without high school diplomas and of ending up unemployed.
Tibor Navracsics, the European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, took the view that the inclusion of the disadvantaged and refugees should be reinforced. According to him, the recent Paris attacks showed that youth and education policies must be used 'more effectively'. He believes that EU actions in this area should attack the causes of radicalisation, namely inequality, social exclusion, poverty and unemployment. The Commissioner maintained his desire to 'redirect' European programmes to support integration projects.
Regarding the Erasmus+ programme, launched in 2014, projects in support of inclusion and the fight against radicalisation will be prioritised in 2016, said Tibor Navracsics. In 2014, around 60 projects were dedicated to social integration compared with more than 160 projects in 2015, added the Commissioner, who wants to 'substantially boost' the number of these projects.
The Commission will also call for funding proposals worth 10 million euros for projects against radicalisation on the ground. Inclusion will be placed at the heart of youth policies, stated the Commissioner. Tibor Navracsics also called on guaranteeing refugees and migrants access to education and pointed out that specific measures to facilitate the recognition of diplomas had been launched.
The French Minister for National Education, Higher Education and Research, Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, speaking alongside the Luxembourg Minister at the press conference, recalled that schools should do their utmost to 'prevent the temptation of radicalisation and ensure that […] social cohesion and the values of liberty, equality and fraternity still mean something'. She stressed that education and training should provide a 'bulwark against fanaticism and a vector for openness, mutual respect, and fraternity'. She again referred to the implementation of the Declaration of Paris on promoting citizenship education and common values of liberty, tolerance and non-discrimination, adopted on 17 March 2015 by 26 European education ministers, in the wake of the attacks that struck the French capital in January 2015, and about which her delegation informed the European ministers who met in Council on 23 November.
Joint Report 2015 on Youth and New Work Plan
The Council adopted the 2015 Joint Report on Youth, published on 15 September 2015, on the implementation of the renewed framework for European cooperation in the youth field (2010-2018). These reports are published every 18 months by the Commission and the Council, on the basis of a resolution adopted in 2009.
The 2015 joint report maps the measures already taken by the Member States for youth between 2013 and 2015. Above all, these are aimed at employment and employability, which are amongst the main priorities of the Commission. The report notes that Member States are committed to stepping up their efforts to foster the participation and inclusion of all young people in society.
The report evaluates the carrying out of a 'structured dialogue' and puts forward policy recommendations and priorities for the future work cycle foreseen by the framework for cooperation (2016-2018), namely:
- The stepping up of social inclusion of all young people, particularly those who are vulnerable, such as young people neither in employment nor education or training (NEET) and children from migrant backgrounds;
- Boosting the participation of all young people, in particular those who are exposed to the risk of marginalisation;
- The improvement of integration of all young people in the workplace.
The Council adopted a new EU Work Plan for Youth (2016-2018). This plan will enable the EU and its Member States to continue to fight against youth unemployment. The report sets out six priorities:
- Reinforcing the social inclusion of all young people;
- Stepping up the participation of all young people in democratic life and citizenship in Europe;
- Smoothing the transition towards adulthood for young people, in particular their integration into the work market;
- Advocating the health and well-being of young people, including mental health;
- Contributing towards highlighting the challenges posed by the digital era;
- Contributing towards taking advantage of the possibilities offered by the growing numbers of young migrants and refugees in the EU.
Youth Political Participation
The Ministers adopted a resolution on improving youth political participation in democratic life in Europe. This resolution proposes, in particular, to develop cross-sector cooperation between formal education and non-formal apprenticeships, to promote alternative forms of political participation, upping the number of opportunities for participation locally and regionally, and to support socio-educational work and youth organisations in promoting the integration of young people in society.
In light of this, the structured dialogue can play an important role as a forum for discussion on the priorities, the implementation and the monitoring of European cooperation in the youth field, noted the Ministers. In this context, the Luxembourg Presidency presented the final recommendations on youth participation in democratic life adopted during the European Youth Conference held in Luxembourg from 21 to 24 September 2015.
The Role of Youth Policy and Youth Organisations within the Context of Migration
The Ministers had an exchange of views on the role of youth policy and youth organisations within the context of migration. They were invited to reflect on the way in which these could address the challenges posed by the flow of migrants, based on a note from the Presidency.
New Priorities for European Cooperation in the areas of Education and Training
The Ministers adopted the Council's and Commission's 2015 Joint Report on the implementation of the Strategic Framework for European Cooperation in the area of Education and Training ('Education and Training 2020').
The Education and Training 2020 strategic framework was adopted in May 2009 with the goal of helping Member States to modernise their education and training systems. It involves four broad, long-term objectives, making lifelong training and mobility a reality; improving educational and training quality and effectiveness; fostering equality, social cohesion and active citizenship; and boosting creativity and innovation.
Reducing School Dropout Rates
The Council adopted the conclusions on school dropout rates and fostering success at school. The conclusions invite Member States to make good use of the instruments offered by the EU like the Erasmus+ programme, the European Social Fund and the European Fund for Strategic Investments.