EU Presidency in Austria: Education Ministers also support SEE-ERA.NET

Education Ministers see "Lisbon Agenda" as main driving force for education reforms also in the countries of the Western Balkans. The process of integrating the region into the European Area of Education is well underway, but requires sustainable support and commitment at national, regional and EU levels. The adoption of European standards in the field of education and training in the countries of the Western Balkans is vital - especially for the European perspective of the region as underlined in the "Thessaloniki Declaration" in 2003.

"Strengthening Education in Europe

Final Communiqué on the Outcome of Discussions on 17 March 2006*
BACKGROUND
> The education systems and institutions in Europe today are confronted
> with the need to be competitive and to cooperate in a globalised
> society. At the same time, they should contribute to building a
> socially cohesive knowledge society.
>
> In 2005, in the framework of the re-launched Lisbon strategy, the EU
> Ministers of Education stressed the importance of better quality of
> education and training for achieving the goals of Lisbon and for the
> competitiveness of Europe: "Better quality of education and
> training...contribute to sustainable economic growth, social cohesion
> and more and better jobs".

> In line with the emphasis of the Austrian EU Presidency on quality in
> education, and following the tradition of regular meetings at
> ministerial level since 1997, the IX Conference of European Ministers
> of Education discussed the widening of the European Area of Education
> to the Western Balkans, and sought ways for strengthening education by
> enhancing its contribution to the re-launched Lisbon agenda for
> growth, employability and greater social cohesion in Europe.
>
> The main themes in focus were the ongoing integration of the Western
> Balkan countries into the European Area of Education, the significance
> of qualification frameworks (European and national) for education
> reforms in a lifelong learning perspective, and the role of the
> universities for the reform agenda in South Eastern Europe as a point
> of synergy between education, research and innovation.
>
> MESSAGES
> *Western Balkans - Instruments for Widening the European Area of
> Education *

> The Ministers stressed that the "Lisbon Agenda" is the main driving
> force for education reforms also in the countries of the Western
> Balkans. The process of integrating the region into the European Area
> of Education is well underway, but requires sustainable support and
> commitment at national, regional and EU levels. The adoption of
> European standards in the field of education and training in the
> countries of the Western Balkans is vital - especially for the
> European perspective of the region as underlined in the "Thessaloniki
> Declaration" in 2003.
>
> The involvement of the Western Balkans in Community programmes like
> Tempus and Erasmus Mundus "...can give Western Balkan countries a firm
> foothold in the EU and facilitate the exchange of know-how and good
> practices"^^2 <#_ftn2> and promotes the European dimension of
> education reforms. The Ministers hence welcomed that the new Lifelong
> Learning Programme 2007 - 2013 foresees the participation of the
> Western Balkan countries and reaffirmed that national commitment is
> paramount already in the preparatory process for participation in this
> Programme. Still, the participation of the Western Balkan countries in
> the new Lifelong Learning Programme 2007 - 2013 will also depend on
> the timely availability of EU support, in particular with expertise
> and through access to pre-accession financial instruments.
>
> The Ministers further acknowledged the important contribution of the
> European Training Foundation towards widening the European Area of
> Education to the Western Balkans, and the significance of regional
> cooperation within the Education Reform Initiative of South Eastern
> Europe (ERI SEE) and the Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe.

> European Qualification Framework/National Qualification Frameworks
> The Ministers reaffirmed the potential of the European Qualifications
> Framework (EQF) to significantly contribute to the transparency,
> transferability and recognition of qualifications at the European
> level, and its role as an agent for reforms to support lifelong
> learning in the wider European Area of Education. Instruments such as
> EUROPASS should be used as a tool for supporting its practical
> implementation.

> The EQF initiative offers a strong cooperation link between the region
> and the EU through the intense discussions on national qualification
> frameworks and EQF which are underway also in most of the countries of
> the Western Balkans. The effort in the region needs support, inter
> alia by peer learning activities at EU level, by the provision of
> expertise through European institutions like the European Training
> Foundation and through networks for regional cooperation like the
> Education Reform Initiative of South Eastern Europe.
>
> Higher Education
> The Ministers share the common objectives of creating a European
> Higher Education and Research Area and of supporting the main premises
> of the Lisbon Strategy that knowledge societies and economies in
> Europe can only be realised through strong and socially responsive
> higher education institutions. In the knowledge triangle of education,
> research and innovation universities play a special role in promoting
> European standards in education and training, especially in the
> countries of the Western Balkans.
>
> The implementation of the Bologna objectives, the participation of
> higher education institutions in the new Community programmes, and the
> integration into the European Research Area (e.g. with the support of
> the Southeast European ERA NET), are vital for the higher education
> institutions of the Western Balkan region and, with this, for
> strengthening education in Europe.

> In this context the Ministers underlined the significance of
> institutional and political cooperation, and welcomed the messages of
> the universities of the region and the respective initiatives of the
> European University Association.

> The Ministers further welcomed the suggestion of the European
> Commission to continue existing programmes in the area of higher
> education (Tempus and Erasmus Mundus) after 2006.
>
> Sustainability
> The Ministers stressed the need for a continuous, inclusive European
> dialogue on current matters in the field of European education policy,
> in particular for widening the European Area of Education to the
> Western Balkan region and for strengthening education in Europe in the
> light of the Lisbon strategy. The Ministers therefore welcomed the
> initiative of the Austrian EU Presidency to host a Conference of
> European Ministers of Education with a focus on the Western Balkans,
> and encouraged future presidencies to continue this dialogue at
> ministerial level.

inserted by Peter MAYR on 2006-03-20 14:51:09

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