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02/03/2006 15:52 Local Time 
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"Spring Day in Europe": Schools discuss the future of the European Union
Education, Youth and Culture

Legal basis
EU means
EU objectives
Legal Basis
EU means
EU objectives


Education and vocational training have been the two cornerstones of the EU’s commitment to securing investment in people and enhancing their qualifications, creativeness and adaptability. Since the adoption of the Maastricht Treaty in 1992, the EU has launched a series of educational programs with a particular focus on the training of young people. These include: Socrates (from 1995) that has funded mobility (mainly within the EU) for European citizens in the world of education, including university students and staff, head teachers, schoolteachers, school pupils and decision-makers. The Leonardo da Vinci program, established in 1994, set out to improve the quality of vocational training in Europe and the Youth for Europe program launched in 1995 whose main objective is to contribute to the education of young people outside school systems.

From 1997 onwards, all the Community programmes relating to education, training and youth have received fresh impetus as a result of being opened up gradually to a number of Central European countries (Hungary, Czech Republic and Romania) and Cyprus. Participation was then extended to Poland and Slovakia and later to Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Bulgaria and Slovenia.

Legal basis

The Treaty on European Union provides a largely supplementary role for the EU in the field of education. The EU is very reluctant to interfere in issues related to the content of education, which remains largely determined by the national context. Article 149 stipulates that the EU should contribute to the development of quality education by supporting and supplementing action taken by the Member States, while fully respecting their cultural and linguistic diversity as regards the content of teaching and the organisation of education systems. Article 150 gives the Union the right to implement a vocational training policy to support and supplement the action taken by the Member States.

EU means

The EU can adopt incentive measures without requiring any type of harmonisation of the laws and administrative decisions of the Member States. As regards legislative acts, the Council can only adopt recommendations. In the field of vocational education, however, the EU can initiate a proper vocational education policy, respecting the fact that responsibility for the content and structure of the teaching lies with the Member States.

Programs launched by the EU are mainly oriented towards the improvement of infrastructure, the exchange of ideas, and generally measures that contribute to the proper function of the internal market. Participation in these initiatives is not restricted to European citizens. The EEA countries (Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein) and the countries applying for membership of the Union take also part.

EU objectives

As stipulated by the Treaty, the EU objectives are the following:

  • To develop the European dimension in the area of education, in particular by instruction in and dissemination of the Member States’ languages.
  • To favour the mobility of students and teachers, inter alia by promoting the recognition of examination certificates and periods of study.
  • To promote cooperation between educational institutions.
  • To promote the exchange of information and experience on issues common to the educational institutions of the Member States.
  • To encourage the exchange of children’s groups and youth leaders.
  • To encourage the development of distance learning.
  • To ease adjustment to industrial development, in particular by vocational education and retraining.
  • To improve basic vocational education and to update and upgrade training in order to ease vocational integration and reintegration into the labour market.
  • To ease admission to vocational education and promote the mobility of vocational teachers and persons receiving education, particularly the youth.
  • To stimulate cooperation concerning vocational education between educational institutions and enterprises.
  • Among the conclusions of the Lisbon Summit in 2000, a certain number of priorities in the area of teaching were also adopted:
  • The eLearning initiative, an extension of the eEurope action plan in the area of teaching: to substantially increase the annual investment per resident in human resources;
  • to halve, by the year 2010, the number of persons aged 18-24 who have completed only the first stage of secondary education and who are not continuing their studies or training;
  • to organise partnerships for the acquisition of knowledge between various teaching establishments; to promote lifelong education and training;
  • to develop a European certificate of competence in information technology;
  • to promote and facilitate the mobility of students, trainers, teachers and researchers;


Cultural policy is based on the principle of involving citizens to a greater degree and strengthening their feeling of belonging to the European Union, respecting, at the same time, the diversity of national and regional traditions and cultures. This presents a recent development reflected in the Treaty on European Union (Maastricht Treaty signed on 7 February 1992), which designates new areas of Community responsibility (education, youth, culture, etc.).

Concentrated efforts towards the establishment of a concerted EU cultural policy led to the adoption of a new framework program, Culture 2000, which sets out to further cultural dialogue and the transnational dissemination of European culture by supporting cooperation. The program, which runs to the end of 2004, is targeted at artists, cultural actors, cultural networks and institutions contributing to stressing the existence of a common cultural frame of reference for the European populations.

Legal Basis

The scope for Community action in the cultural field is listed in Article 151 of the EC Treaty. There, various areas of intervention at Community level are stipulated:

  • to improve the knowledge and dissemination of the culture and history of the European peoples;
  • to conserve and safeguard cultural heritage of European significance;
  • to support non-commercial cultural exchanges;
  • to encourage artistic and literary creation, including the audiovisual sector.
  • to highlight cultural cooperation with third countries and the competent international organisations, especially the Council of Europe.

Article 151 obligates the Community to take cultural aspects into account in its action under other provisions of the Treaty and to promote cultural diversity. Culture must therefore be taken also into consideration when developing EU policy concerning personal and human development (through education), economic and social cohesion among Member States, job creation in Europe, elimination of exclusion, etc.

EU means

The chief instrument of Community action is the financial instrument known as the ‘Culture 2000’ program. It constitutes a single financing and programming instrument, succeeding the Kaleidoscope, Ariane and Raphael programmes. Culture 2000 includes:

  • developing ad hoc European cultural cooperation activities;
  • encouraging broad, multiannual cooperation projects in the form of networks and partnerships linking the various players in the field of culture;
  • supporting symbolic cultural initiatives.

The adoption of proposals presented by the Commission to the European Parliament comes under the Council-Parliament codecision procedure. Unanimity in the Council is required at all stages of the procedure making decision-making in all cultural areas quite inflexible.

EU objectives

The framework programme ‘Culture 2000’ has been designed as an EU approach towards the cultural challenges of globalisation and with a view to improving the coherence and visibility of culture. It aims to guide the growing intensity of transnational and intra-European cultural co-operation, giving recourse to the recognition of national and regional cultural differences.

Enlargement is expected to enhance cultural and linguistic variety and diversity within the EU. As a result, new requirements in terms of promoting and respecting linguistic and cultural identity, a common heritage of cultural values and a common European identity will arise. The protection of cultural minorities will also become more important in an enlarged Union.


Read also

Copenhagen Declaration on enhanced European cooperation in vocational education and training

European Commission White Paper - A New Impetus For European Youth

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