The future of work in the EU

Written by Monika Kiss,

Businessman showing a virtual display of internet business network on his hand

© laufer / Fotolia

Economic and technical changes are redrawing the map of the world of work: new jobs are appearing while others are becoming obsolete, and atypical work patterns are replacing full-time work and open-ended contracts.

In addition, work is increasingly being carried out on online platforms connecting buyers and sellers, or by large project teams across borders and time zones.

Robotics and digitalisation raise new questions, as machines are progressively replacing the human workforce for routine tasks, and as new types of professional and personal skills are required to respond to technological progress.

Active labour-market policies are needed to cater for the changing reality in the world of work. This concerns social security systems, which must adapt to new, constantly changing, requirements, unresolved ethical and practical problems relating to robotics, and the need for new digital skills, which are essential to survive in the new working environment.

Read the complete briefing on ‘The future of work in the EU’.

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EP Plenary Session April II: Discharge of the EU’s 2015 budget (but it’s not just about the money)

Written by Clare Ferguson,

European Parliament building Brussels

European Union, EP

The biggest issue on Parliament’s plenary agenda for this session is the discharge procedure for the EU’s 2015 budget. To ensure the transparent and democratic scrutiny of how public funds are spent, Parliament’s elected Members decide whether the EU institutions have disbursed their budget in accordance with the rules. As the European Commission, and its executive agencies, handle the lion’s share of the EU budget, the debate on Wednesday evening will first focus on the Budgetary Control Committee’s recommendation that discharge should be granted. The accounts do not emerge unscathed, however, as the Committee is critical of issues caused by two main problems – the difficulties of aligning funding and spending over a multi-annual programming period that does not mirror five year political mandates, and delays caused by late payments. Subsequently, Members will consider the accounts of the EU institutions other than the European Commission, including nine institutions, representing 2.3 % of the overall budget. For eight of these, Parliament’s Budgetary Control Committee has made comments, and recommends that discharge is granted. The ninth, the European Council and Council, has been problematic in the past, due to disagreement on the procedure between Council and Parliament. For this reason, Parliament is likely to agree to postpone the decision regarding the European Council and Council to October. Finally, Parliament’s Committee on Budgetary Control proposes to grant discharge for all of the EU’s decentralised agencies and joint undertakings. Discussion of financial matters will continue to dominate the debate on Thursday, with the Presidents of the European Investment Bank and the Eurogroup attending plenary to discuss, respectively, the EIB’s annual report and the state of play on the economic adjustment programme for Greece.

Although the focus in recent months has moved away from the financial crises in Greece and Cyprus, the countries are still suffering the effects of painful restructuring. Learning some lessons from the political fallout of the handling of the crisis, the European Commission is proposing a structural reform support programme, with a €142.8 million budget (coming from existing regional funding), to help Member States who request assistance in organising reforms aimed at boosting growth. On Wednesday afternoon, Parliament will discuss the compromise achieved with the Council to ensure that the programme is extended to include the regional and local levels, that funding does not set a precedent, and that the programme is accompanied by adequate scrutiny and transparency. Whilst on the subject of the regions, other items on the plenary agenda include a discussion on an own-initiative report on fishing-fleet management in the EU’s Outermost Regions (in the North Atlantic, and Indian Oceans and the Caribbean), on Wednesday evening, focusing on modernising the fleet and promoting sustainable fishing.

Recent political upheaval in Member States, as well as the effects of the financial and migration crises, have underlined the importance of the values on which the European Union is based, values that have been forged through our common history and cultural heritage. The challenges the Union currently faces make this an opportune moment to pause and reflect. Parliament has therefore recommended that 2018 be declared the European Year of Cultural Heritage, and will vote on the proposal on Wednesday evening. Human rights values will also feature largely later on Wednesday night, when Parliament is expected to remind the Commission of its pledge to put forward a proposal on responsible management in the garment industry, following the Rana Plaza garment factory tragedy in 2013. Despite several Member State initiatives, the Commission has yet to put forward a proposal. Parliament’s Development Committee would like the EU to ensure mandatory due diligence, transparency and traceability for garment supply chains, enforcement of labour standards and respect for human rights, in an industry that employs up to 75 million people throughout the world.

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Brexit negotiations [What Think Tanks are thinking]

Written by Marcin Grajewski,

UK and EU puzzle


The British Prime Minister, Theresa May, has called an early general election on 8 June 2017, arguing that victory for her party would ‘strengthen her hand’ in negotiations on the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union. In March, her government launched the formal procedure for leaving the Union, by triggering Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union. The European Council will adopt guidelines for the negotiations on 29 April.

This note offers links to recent commentaries and reports published by major international think tanks on the UK’s plans to leave the EU. More studies on issues raised by the vote can be found in a previous edition of ‘What Think Tanks are thinking’ in February 2017.

The UK’s general election: Mandate for a softer Brexit or preparation for going over the cliff edge?
European Policy Centre, April 2017

May’s election gamble
Carnegie Europe, April 2017

It’s up to the EU to ensure May’s ‘softer Brexit’ ploy pays off
Friends of Europe, April 2017

Brexit looms large over UK election
European Council on Foreign Relations, April 2016

European defence in view of Brexit
Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik, April 2017

Brexit: Après May, le déluge
European Policy Centre, April 2017

In Brexit talks, don’t bargain over security
Clingendael, April 2017

Brexiting the Energy Union: What do the negotiation positions imply?
European Policy Centre, April 2017

Brexit: Between the Rock and a hard place
Carnegie Europe, April 2017

Hard borders of the mind: Brexit, Northern Ireland and the Good Friday Agreement
European Council on Foreign Relations, April 2017

For Germany, Brexit is more about politics than business
Chatham House, April 2017

Brexit: Parfum de guerre sur Gibraltar?
Institut Thomas More, April 2017

Northern Ireland and Brexit: The European Economic Area option
European Policy Centre, April 2017

A discourse analysis of the UK Referendum campaign on EU membership
Institut für Europäische Politik, April 2017

Brexit’s threat to ‘the special relationship’
Brookings Institution, April 2017

Brexit bargain should not include defense
Atlantic Council, April 2017

No deal is the worst deal yet Brexfast is still in the cards
European Policy Centre, March 2017

Collaboration UK-EU paramount for European safety, freedom and welfare
Clingendael, April 2017

Brussels gets Brexit wrong, again
Hoover Institution, April 2017

Brexit: Next steps of UK’s withdrawal from the EU
House of Commons Library, April 2017

Defence and security after Brexit
Rand Corporation, March 2017

Brexit and a multi-speed Europe: A lawyer’s perspective
Bertelsmann Stiftung, March 2017

Negotiating with a dis-United Kingdom
Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik, March 2017

How a British bid on immigration can facilitate Brexit
Peterson Institute for International Economics, March 2017

What Brexit means
Council on Foreign Relations, March 2017

Brexit: How to manage the talks and the transition
European Policy Centre, March 2017

Divorce settlement or leaving the club? A breakdown of the Brexit bill
Bruegel, March 2017

The UK’s Brexit bill: what are the possible liabilities?
Bruegel, March 2017

The EU now controls the Brexit talks
Atlantic Council, March 2017

Berlin to the rescue? A closer look at Germany’s position on Brexit
Centre for European Reform, March 2017

Article 50 and the Great Repeal Bill are only the beginning
Chatham House, March 2017

Implikationen des „Brexits“
Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, March 2017

Die EU tut gut daran, sich auf einen „harten Brexit“ einzustellen
Deutsche Gesellschaft für Auswärtige Politik, March 2017

An assessment of the economic impact of Brexit on the EU27
Centre for European Policy Studies, March 2017

After the UK’s Brexit White Paper: What’s the next move towards a CFTA?
Centre for European Policy Studies, March 2017

Brexit and the politics of raising barriers
Rand Corporation, March 2017

Brexit and the joys of starting over
Friends of Europe, March 2017

EU citizens back their leaders’ negotiating stance on Brexit
Chatham House, March 2017

Union européenne, Brexit, Etats-Unis : La dimension stratégique des nouveaux enjeux commerciaux
Fondation Robert Schuman, March 2017

Germany after Brexit
Carnegie Europe, March 2017

Brexit bill negotiators must answer these 12 questions
Bruegel, March 2017

Views from the capitals: Europe prepares for Article 50
European Council on Foreign Relations, March 2017

29 charts that explain Brexit
Bruegel, March 2017

What are Britain’s post-Brexit migration options?
Friends of Europe, March 2017

The house of Lords’ report on the “Brexit bill”: An extremely dangerous development for the coming negotiation
Egmont, March 2017

How to (Br)exit: A guide for decision-makers
Friends of Europe, March 2017

Is Brexit a distraction from EU foreign policy?
Carnegie Europe, March 2017

As the U.K. prepares to leave, is Europe disintegrating after 60 years?
German Marshall Fund, March 2017

The City of London after Brexit
Peterson Institute for International Economics, February 2017

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Understanding the macroeconomic imbalance procedure: Origin, rationale and aims

Written by Christian Scheinert,

Big Elephant balancing on a sphere with Ying yang symbol of harmony and balance. Alternative medicine theme.

© Kletr / Fotolia

Both the global financial crisis and the European sovereign debt crisis uncovered a high level of macroeconomic imbalances, which constituted major economic fault-lines, and led to the spread and acceleration of these crises. Imbalances had built up over years, sometimes decades, and correcting them proved to be a long and painful process. The main source of imbalance was the consequences of an unprecedented expansion in demand, fuelled by large credit inflows into the euro-area periphery. This created major problems when the EU, already bending under the financial crisis that originated in the USA, saw its own financial markets lose confidence. The financial flows from Europe’s economic core to the periphery reversed, leaving the periphery vulnerable, and creating repercussions throughout Europe and beyond.

In parallel to coping with the immediate problems, lawmakers took steps to avoid a re-occurrence of such events. The EU’s economic governance framework, which had proven inadequate, underwent a major overhaul, with the addition of a macroeconomic imbalance procedure (MIP) being the most important part. The aim of the MIP is to identify and correct imbalances as early as possible in order to avoid deeper problems at a later stage, thus supplementing the Stability and Growth Pact (SGP). A framework was created in which each individual Member State, especially those part of the euro area, is thoroughly screened for macroeconomic imbalances, and preventive as well as corrective action is taken whenever necessary.

Read the complete briefing on ‘Understanding the macroeconomic imbalance procedure: Origin, rationale and aims‘ in PDF.

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How the EU budget is spent: Nuclear decommissioning assistance

Written by Gianluca Sgueo and Matthew Parry,

building factory nuclear isolated icon vector illustration design

© Gstudio Group / Fotolia

In the early 1990s, in the wake of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, the EU began providing financial and technical assistance to partner countries in Eastern Europe and Central Asia via the TACIS and PHARE programmes. In 1999, the EU launched three nuclear decommissioning assistance programmes (NDAP) specifically to help Bulgaria, Lithuania, and Slovakia safely close and dismantle their early Soviet-designed reactors while acceding to the Union. The Commission estimates that by 2020, some €3.8 billion from the EU budget will have been spent on the NDAPs since 1999, providing financial assistance for decommissioning, dismantling and waste management projects; energy-sector projects aimed at mitigating the consequences of reactor shutdowns; and projects addressing the socio-economic consequences of decommissioning.

The 1957 Treaty establishing the European Atomic Energy Community is the general basis for joint EU nuclear research and safety measures, but the specific legal basis of each NDAP varies depending on the country: in the case of Lithuania, the 2003 Treaty on the country’s accession to the EU explicitly included the possibility that decommissioning operations would receive further financing beyond 2006. Conversely, for Bulgaria, Article 30 of the Protocol to its 2005 Accession Treaty limits financial support to 2007-2009, while for Slovakia the 2003 Accession Treaty limits funding to 2004-2006. Protocols attached to the above-mentioned accession treaties also set deadlines for closing the respective nuclear reactors.

EU financial assistance provided to the three countries through the NDAP has been implemented over four periods. During their first period (‘pre-accession’ up to 2004), Lithuania and Slovakia received funding through the Phare programme. One of the main EU instruments for pre-accession assistance to central and eastern European countries, Phare was later replaced by the Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance. Financial assistance over the second period (between 2004 and 2006) was provided under the protocols to the countries’ accession acts. Since 2007 (the third period), Council regulations have ensured the continuation of assistance for the Slovak and Lithuanian governments. The fourth period began in 2014 and will run until 2020.

Bulgaria’s later entry into the EU meant its first and second funding periods were slightly different. During its pre-accession period (up to 2007), Bulgaria received financing through Phare. For the 2007-2009 period, assistance to the country was provided under the protocol to the accession treaty. Following a formal request for the prolongation of the funding assistance presented in 2009, the Council adopted a new regulation to ensure the continuation of assistance until 2013. Assistance continues under the current 2014-2020 MFF, with commitments amounting to almost €970 million in current prices: €450.8 million for the decommissioning of Ignalina in Lithuania, €293 million for Kozloduy in Bulgaria, and €225.4 million for Bohunice in Slovakia. The Commission reports that no further EU financial assistance is planned beyond 2020.

Read the complete briefing on ‘Nuclear decommissioning assistance’.

Financial assistance to NDAP countries (€ million)

Financial assistance to NDAP countries (€ million)

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The New European Consensus on Development

Written by Marta Latek and Anne Vernet,

The New European Consensus on Development

© Franz Pfluegl / fotolia

On 12 May 2016, the Foreign Affairs Council decided to formally launch the review of EU development policy mainly to adapt and update the EU’s development policy to reflect the universally applicable and broad in scope, new UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), but also to reinforce aspects such as addressing deep causes of migration and security and development nexus.

On 14 February 2017 the European Parliament has adopted its position for the negotiation  that are expected to result in the new consensus to be agreed by the EU institutions and members states in summer 2017. This political declaration will serve as a common foundation for the development policies of EU and its member states till  at least 2030.

This Keysource gathers key documents, analyses and stakeholders’ views to throw a light on the issues at stake. It is the bibliographic companion to the EPRS Briefing: A New European Consensus on Development: Will it be fit for purpose? (Marta Latek, April 2017).

See also: Legislative train: Revision of the EU consensus on development  EPRS, Marta Latek, 2017.


European Consensus on Development , Europeaid, European Commission.
The 2005 European Consensus on Development is a policy statement made jointly by the European Commission, Parliament and Council that commits the EU to eradicating poverty and building a fairer and more stable world. See also this Summary of EU legislation , Eur-Lex (2007).


European Parliament

Legislative procedures

2017/2586(RSP) – The new European Consensus on Development – our world, our dignity, our future.

2016/2094(INI) – Revision of the European consensus on development , rapporteurs: Bogdan Brunon Wenta (EPP), Norbert Reuser (S&D).
Video of the vote and declarations by co-rapporteurs
– press release: MEPs set priorities for a new impetus in development 25.01.2017

European Commission

Commission Communication: Proposal for a new European Consensus on Development: Our World, our Dignity, our Future  22.11.2016
The new “European Consensus on Development” is a proposal for a shared vision and framework for action. The Communication proposes aligning the Union’s development policy with the 2030 Agenda, as it is part of the international community’s agreed response to new global trends and challenges of globalisation. It suggests an ambitious, new, collective European development policy, addressing in an integrated manner the main orientations in the 2030 Agenda: people, planet, prosperity, peace, and partnership. A staff working document was also published: Assessing the 2005 European Consensus on Development .
See related Press release : Sustainable Development: EU sets out its new priorities and Factsheet : A proposal for a new European Consensus on development, 22.11.216

Review of strategic evaluations managed by DEVCO to assess the European Consensus on Development Final Report , DG DEVCO, October 2016.
The review analyses and syntheses 148 existing thematic and geographic evaluations to assess how the European Consensus on Development has guided EU development cooperation.

Closing remarks of Mimica Tour in Member States 31.10.2016
Commissioner Mimica held five think tank discussions in Member States in preparation for the proposals for a revised European Consensus on Development. Main conclusions were stressed in his closing speech in The Hague.

A Renewed EU Development Policy in Response to the UN 2030 Agenda , Neven Mimica, 18.10.2016
In his address to the IIEA, Commissioner Mimica discussed the need to revise the European Consensus on Development to account for this changed environment. In particular, Commissioner Mimica addressed the dual commitments of placing women and children at the heart of development and leaving no-one behind.

An Informal EU Development Ministers’ meeting was held in Brussels on 16 March 2017, where ministers discussed the revision of the EU development policy. These discussions have provided direction for the new European Consensus on Development, which frames the development policy activities of the EUand its Member States.

 Foreign Affairs (Development) Council , 12/05/2016

The Council had an orientation debate on the revision of the European consensus on Development in light of the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development, See Outcomes on p. 4.

Council of the Regions

A new European Consensus on Development Rapporteur: Jesús Gamallo Aller (ES/EPP), 8.02.2017.
The EU should increase its cooperation with local and regional authorities in the developing world if the United Nations is to achieve its goal of making cities more “inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable” by 2030. Related press release: A more urban developing world requires more urban response .

EESC – European Economic and Social Committee

Opinion on Proposal for a new European Consensus on Development – Our World, our Dignity, our Future Rapporteur: Ionut Sibian, co-rapporteur: Mihai Manoliu.
The draft opinion was adopted by the External Relations Section on 4 April and is expected to be adopted at the next plenary session on 26 April 2017.


What is the new European Consensus on Development for?   James Mackie, ECDPM Talking Points blog, European Centre for Development Policy Management (ECDPM), 17 February 2017.
The current proposal for the new Consensus is […] less about aid and more about sustainable development.

The proposed new European Consensus on Development: has the European Commission got it right?  Raphaelle Faure, Simon Maxwell, ODI Briefing paper, January 2017, 8 p.
In November 2016, the European Commission proposed a new European Consensus on Development (COM, 2016a), governing all the international development work of the European Union (EU) and the Member States. This policy brief provides a summary and an analysis of the EU’s proposal and sets out a series of options for EU Member States and Members of the European Parliament as they begin negotiations on the text.

Africa Should Benefit Most from New EU Development Vision , ISS Africa, November 2016.
The new development themes to which the New consensus will give greater prominence suggest that Africa will get more attention than other aid recipients. These themes include a greater focus on tackling extreme poverty and inequality, especially in the Least Developed States (about 70% of which are in Africa). It also puts more emphasis on tackling the root causes of migration – much of which is from Africa – and on youth.

Qualified welcome for EU’s new once-in-a-decade development rethink , Euractiv 22.11.2016
Major NGOs gave a guarded welcome today (22 November) to a major once-in-a-decade, overhaul of the EU’s thinking on development

Publised before the proposal :

Seven critical questions for review of ‘European Consensus on Development’ ECDPM, Euractiv, 9.09.2016
Andrew Sherriff, Head of ECDPM’s Strengthening European External Action Programme, outlines seven critical questions for reflection: What’s the purpose of a new Consensus? What’s the added value of the European Union in development? What has been learned from past practice? What’s going to change? What’s the continuing acquis that should not be lost? Do we have a modern, interesting and engaging drafting process to get the best outcome – can we learn from other process, e.g. the EU Global Strategy? How do we make this work in practice?

EU Gathers Views on New Development Consensus IISD, 26.07.2016

The future of the “European Consensus on Development” DIE Briefing Paper 5/2016, February 2016.
This briefing paper looks into the past role and contributions of the Consensus in European development cooperation policy and operations and assesses the central challenges and opportunities for revising the Consensus and ensuring its continuing relevance. The improvement of coordination and cooperation between humanitarian, development and neighbourhood policy could indicate new paths and approaches in this regard. Four recommendations for reforming the consensus are derived from this analysis:

  1. Utilising the reform momentum for a rethink of the Consensus and the forthcoming negotiation on the future cooperation between the EU and the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group.
  2. Adoption of a holistic and sustainable security concept acknowledging the central importance of sustainable development in both Consensus and Global Strategy.
  3. Synergies through the closer integration of policy areas within as well as between MS and EU in the coordi¬nation of humanitarian aid and development policy.
  4. Definition of priorities for future cooperation with middle-income countries (MICs) and emerging powers.

Conference report; Debate on the future of European development Policy Martin Ronceray and James Mackie, ECDPM, November 2016.
On 28 October, ECDPM organised a public debate on the future of European development policy with European Commissioner Neven Mimica and representatives of the Dutch development sector. The debate was the last of a series of five, organised in different cities in Europe; a result of a discussion between the four directors of the European Think Tanks Group and Commissioner Mimica last July.

Stakeholder views


Public Consultation on revising the European Consensus on Development  European Commission, 30.05 – 21.08.2016

Nearly 200 contributions were received:

Analysis of the results and reference documents:

Published after the consultation:

International organisations

Interview of Mario Pezzini , Director of OECD Development Centre at The future of EU development Policy, 24.10.2016
The conference was co-organized by the European Think Tanks Group (IDDRI, DIE, ECDPM and ODI) in the framework of the Initiative for Development and Global Governance (IDGM).

NGO views

CONCORD Red Lines: Proposal for a New European Consensus on Development , CONCORD, January 2017, 4 p.
“[T]he proposed new Consensus struggles to articulate a visionary development policy that will overcome the structural obstacles to sustainable development, and that is able to demonstrate how it will implement some of the core principles such as policy coherence for sustainable development, democratic ownership, and leaving no one behind.”

A new European Consensus on Development? The jury is still out…  Plan International, 28.11.2016
Tanya Cox shares her initial reflections on the proposal. While there is much to commend, the jury is still out on a number of key issues: “”Without a root-cause approach which tackles the business as usual models, we won’t see transformative change for children, especially girls, and women. Without a truly new approach, we won’t succeed in achieving human rights and sustainable development for all and in leaving no one behind.”

Good EU development plans must now translate vision into reality , Oxfam, 22.11.2016
“The litmus test for this new development framework will be how this policy and proposed instruments are supporting people to change their lives, from a woman farmer in Burkina Faso becoming more resilient to climate change, to a land rights activist in Peru safely defending her community.”

Solidar wants a development policy that brings real progress Solidar, 22.11.2016
“We have mixed feelings when reading the parts on the role of the civil society, the protection of social and labour standards, building resilient societies, funding modalities, and its approach to peace.”

The revision of the European Consensus on Development: What’s at stake? Solidar, 26.10.2016
“SOLIDAR – along with CONCORD and the SDG Watch Europe – reiterate(s) … the need for the EU to ensure that:

  • The respect and the promotion of human rights – including Economic Social and Cultural Rights – remains a central common value of EU development cooperation policy in line with the EU Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy adopted in July 2015;
  • The Consensus keeps its focus on development cooperation policy goals (i.e. eradicate poverty and fight inequality). Therefore, development funding should not be used for migration management, to counterpart readmission agreements, for border control, for security purposes and/or to subsidise the private sector;
  • The European Parliament improves its scrutiny on development funding and ensures Policy Coherence for Development;
  • The revised Consensus reflects the spirit and the principles of the 2030 Agenda: leave no one behind, respect planetary boundaries, and gender equality.
  • Above all, the Revised Consensus should deliver a long term vision that should not be compromised by short terms political agendas but should become a development policy all Europeans can be proud of.”

The European Consensus on Development Care International, September 2016, 12 p.

Decent work and social dialogue to leave no one behind: Trade union position on the revision of the European Consensus on Development , Trade Union Development Cooperation Network – RSCD , September 2016, 8 p. [ FR version ]

Financial institutions

EIB: EU’s New Consensus on Development needs support , Werner Hoyer, Euractiv 16.03.2017

With national discourse becoming increasingly insular, few politicians are brave enough to make the case for multilateralism on the domestic stage. But the need for multilateral action and effective support of development and growth outside Europe has never been greater, argues Werner Hoyer, president of the European Investment Bank.

National views

Faisons une place au développement dans le nouveau projet européen , Rémy Rioux, directeur général de l’Agence française de développement AFD, 29.08.2016

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EU support for education: Improving young people’s chances on the job market

Written by Christian Salm and Cornelia Klugman,

  • The EU’s ERASMUS+ programme is investing14.7 billion in education (2014-2019).
  • ERASMUS+ will enable 4 million young Europeans to study or learn abroad.
  • Experience abroad increases young people’s chances on the job market and reduces their risk of unemployment.

Support for education, training and youth in Europe

EU support for education: Improving young people's chances on the job market


School and university students, as well as people in professional training, benefit from EU support for education. The EU funds exchange programmes such as the popular Erasmus programme, which allows students to spend up to a year in another EU Member State. Less well known are other EU-funded opportunities for young people learning a job to gain additional qualifications. These exchanges offer invaluable possibilities to live in another country, to significantly improve language skills, and to gain new experience abroad.

Trans-European mobility is therefore at the core of EU education policy. Mobility allows students and apprentices to obtain better professional qualifications and eases their access to labour markets. The EU has a supporting function in education policy, and seeks to help Member States achieve the overall objective of high quality education (Lisbon Treaty, Article 165). As education policies are decided at the Member State level, the EU facilitates cooperation between Member States, while supporting the mutual recognition of diplomas and fostering mobility. Despite its limited role on paper, the EU’s support in education policy has proved significant. The Erasmus programme alone gave close to 3 million students the opportunity to study and learn abroad between 1987 and 2013.

2014-2020, under the new ERASMUS+ programme, 4 million Europeans will be given an opportunity to gain experience abroad. ERASMUS+ now includes the entire gamut of EU support for mobility in the field of education, training, youth and sport within one single framework. Its budget amounts to €14.7 billion for the 2014 to 2020 period. The European Parliament has successfully demanded an increase in the budget available for education, including for ERASMUS+. The programme covers such areas as:

ERASMUS+ programme

ERASMUS+ programme

EU’s key contribution to education

The EU’s education and training strategic framework (ET 2020) offers support for almost all stages of learning, including academic and non-academic education, in order to contribute to the development of quality education: early childhood (preschool, kindergarten), school, vocational training (apprenticeships), higher education (universities, etc.), professional (re-)training and adult education.

Academic education

Transnational academic cooperation and student mobility are important parts of the Europe 2020 strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth and jobs. By promoting studies abroad and facilitating the mobility of students, the EU has contributed to improving the skills and employability of students across Europe. For example, the EU has let strong support to the Bologna process, which is a collective effort of public authorities, universities, students, employers from 48 countries to ensure comparability in academic standards and quality of higher-education qualifications within a European Higher Education Area. The Bologna process has been critical in easing the recognition of qualifications and periods of study across Europe, thus facilitating student exchanges. Moreover, the EU has developed instruments to facilitate the recognition of knowledge, competences and skills, such as:

  • the European Qualifications Framework, which helps to compare national qualifications systems and to make qualifications across European countries easier to understand; and
  • the Europass, a type of skills passport, which is free of charge and allows students (and apprentices) to present to employers their qualifications and experience from across Europe.

The mobility opportunities supported by the EU enrich the professional and academic lives of many European students and allow them to develop new skills that can significantly enhance their employability, notably adaptability and flexibility, language knowledge, intercultural competence, self-reliance and self-awareness. A 2014 study on Erasmus by the European Commission included an evaluation of the impact of mobility on the skills and employability of students, highlighting two striking effects:

  • the risk of long-term unemployment for Erasmus students after graduation was 50 % lower than for non-mobile students, and
  • the unemployment rate of mobile students was 23 % lower five years after graduation.

Non-academic education and vocational training

Good quality early childhood education can help level social differences, because it supports the children in greatest need: those from disadvantaged backgrounds. Therefore, EU education ministers and the Commission have agreed to aim to offer places in early childhood education/preschool to 95 % of all children from four years of age. An EU working group is currently developing methods to help Member States monitor the quality of their provision.

EU funding totalling €8 billion (2014-2020) will contribute to Member States’ efforts to increase the number of pupils leaving school with the necessary skills to pursue further education and find a job. Such basic skills include reading, mathematics and science. EU-funded research has highlighted the categories of children who are particularly vulnerable to dropping out of school and put forward possible solutions to help them stay in school. For instance, the EU finances the individual coaching of young people in danger of leaving school without a qualification and has helped to fund a new school in Sweden to help early school leavers return to education. Children from schools across Europe can also work on common projects through eTwinning and the School Education Gateway, which are EU-funded online platforms that connect schools.

Outside school, the EU fosters youth exchanges. The European Voluntary Service (EVS), which has existed for 20 years, has already enabled 100 000 young people to volunteer abroad. One example of an EVS project is a cultural centre in Sicily, where young people can help organise environmental activities for schoolchildren or work with immigrants. For the 2014 to 2020 period, 600 000 young people aged between 13 and 30 will receive EU funding for the EVS or shorter-term youth exchanges.

In the area of non-academic education, the EU has also developed support for vocational education and training (VET). Vocational qualifications are an important factor in helping young people to find paid employment – as people with low levels of education are three times more likely not to be in employment, education or training than qualified people. The EU aims to give at least 6 % of apprentices the opportunity to study or train abroad. From 2014 to 2020, ERASMUS+ will fund traineeships of up to 12 months for 650 000 young people in a company or another workplace abroad (public or non-governmental organisation, etc.) or in a VET school with periods of work-based learning in a company. This is illustrated by a German-Spanish exchange where students from a vocational training school spent a few months in Spain, working in logistics in local transport companies. The apprentices, some of whom were next in line to take over family businesses, took away valuable experience that they would be able to use at home. Sending apprentices across borders also generates European added value: according to a Commission study people who learn foreign languages and become proficient in them are more likely to find employment.

Finally, the EU helps adults needing to acquire or improve basic skills and older workers needing to retrain or to keep their skills up to date. For instance, through the European Social Fund and the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund, the EU helps young mothers in the United Kingdom combine childcare and employment, and helps workers to retrain or set up their own businesses after losing their jobs. ERASMUS for Young Entrepreneurs, originally proposed by the European Parliament, brings together young and experienced entrepreneurs.

Teachers from all stages of learning can receive EU funds to teach abroad or observe other teachers for up to two months. This also enables them to exchange ideas on teaching methods with colleagues from other EU countries.

Share of ERASMUS+ funding per education sector

Share of ERASMUS+ funding per education sector

Challenges to and responses by education policy

Unemployment among young people remains high in Europe, more than double the rate of the general population. The youth unemployment rate in the EU as a whole reached 18.5 % (4.2 million young people aged under 25) in September 2016. The highest rates were recorded in Greece with 44.6 %, Spain with 42.8 % and Italy with 37.4 %.

In that context, investment in education and training is crucial to increase the chances of young people on the labour market. Most EU Member States spend within a range of 3.1 % and 6.2 % of their GDP on education. Through a series of specific financing programmes, the EU gives an additional boost to investment in education and training. Besides ERASMUS+, two other EU European funds contribute to improving education across Europe in the period 2014-2020:

In addition, the European Fund for Strategic Investments, a new budgetary tool aimed at boosting growth and investment in the EU, provides financial support for projects contributing to education. By offering EU guarantees, it attracts private capital and therefore enables the financing of projects that would otherwise not be realised. The fund also includes financing opportunities for SMEs willing to invest in education.

Activities and benefits of possible future EU support for education

Spending on education needs to be offset, inter alia, against the costs of young people not employed. In 2012, the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions outlined that European economies lose approximately €153 billion per year because of the inability to place young people in gainful employment. More EU activities along the lines of the ERASMUS+ programme, would help more young people to secure qualifications and find a job by promoting mobility opportunities. The Jacques Delors Institute argues that €5 billion a year would allow 200 000 young people to gain experience in a different country annually. Such a programme would help to fill the many vacant apprenticeships in EU Member States. It would also feed into the EU’s Youth Guarantee, which aims to ensure that young people receive a good-quality offer of employment or further education within four months of becoming unemployed or leaving education. Although youth unemployment dropped from a peak of 24.4 % in early 2013 to 18.5 % in autumn 2016, the EU still needs to achieve better results.

The EU’s contribution to the education of European citizens has added a new and vital cross border dimension to national education efforts. Experiences abroad have proved to be a major asset for young people on the job market. The EU plays a crucial role as a coordinator and facilitator to support apprentices and students, education institutions and many more to cooperate across borders. In other words, the EU’s investments in education in the form of mobility and other support are a key element in the future of young Europeans.

Philipp Hingerl, trainee at the German software company Corel GmbH – Mindjet:

Originally from Germany, Philipp spent three weeks at a software company in Brighton (UK) as part of an ERASMUS+ mobility programme for apprentices. During his stay in Brighton, he benefited from education-relevant experience that his company in Germany could not offer. At the company in Brighton he had the opportunity to learn about warehouse processes, for example. He appreciates having experienced in the UK how things can be done in a different way, which is helping him and his company in Germany to improve their working systems. Finally, getting to know native speakers helped him to improve his English and to become more familiar with the British lifestyle and culture.

Read this briefing on ‘EU support for education: Improving young people’s chances on the job market‘ in PDF.

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Galileo and Copernicus – EU flagship space programmes

Written by Vincent Reillon,

The EU space programmes for satellite navigation – Galileo – and earth observation – Copernicus – were both launched at the end of the 1990s. While the programmes have suffered significant delays and cost overruns, they have always benefited from a strong support from the European Parliament and the other EU institutions. These programmes represent a cumulative public investment of more than €20 billion from the EU and the European Space Agency (ESA).

As they are reaching their full operational capacity, the strategic independence they provide for the EU and their Member States represent a strong asset for the development of services in navigation, agriculture, forestry and fisheries, energy, public health, transport and urban planning. The market uptake of the services and data provided by Galileo and Copernicus is a key priority of the European space strategy adopted in October 2016.

Galileo: overcoming obstacles

Galileo: Overcoming obstacles

© Andrey Armyagov / Fotolia

Galileo, the long-awaited European global navigation satellite systems, is at a turning point in its history: it reached initial operational capacity in December 2016 and is expected to be fully operational for 2021. This autonomous European civilian tool, which can be used anywhere on earth, transmits positioning and timing data from space for use on the ground to determine a user’s location. Alongside it, the European geostationary navigation overlay system (EGNOS), which improves the accuracy and integrity of the American global positioning system (GPS) over EU territory, became fully operational in 2011.

With the idea of establish a public-private partnership to implement the programmes failing in 2007, the European Union (EU) decided to provide the funding needed to complete both programmes. Galileo and EGNOS became the first infrastructure to be owned by the EU.

Delays and cost over-runs can be explained through political, technical, industrial and security issues. It is estimated that by 2020, the EU and ESA will have invested more than €13 billion in these programmes. This public investment, although much larger than that initially planned, matches the cost of similar programmes such as GPS, and is justified by the need for the European Union to have strategic autonomy in the field.

Securing the Copernicus programme

The Copernicus programme is a user-driven programme which provides six free-of-charge operational services (atmosphere monitoring, marine environment monitoring, land monitoring, climate change, emergency management and security) to EU, national, and regional institutions, as well as to the private sector. The programme builds on the initiative on global monitoring for environment and security launched in 2001. It aims at filling the gaps in European earth observation capacities. Data is provided from space infrastructures, particularly the sentinel missions developed under the programme, and in situ infrastructure supported by the Member States. Copernicus services are mainly operated by European Union (EU) agencies.

Securing the Copernicus programme

© timothyh / Fotolia

Copernicus requires a high level of continuity in data and service provision. A strong political commitment at EU level is required to provide adequate funding for the development of the operational earth observation missions and services. The EU – under the framework programme for research and operational programmes – and the ESA have invested more than €7 billion in Copernicus since 2002. By the end of 2017, four of the six sentinel missions should be fully deployed and the last of the six services should become fully operational.

As Copernicus reaches its full operational stage, the focus of the programme is shifting towards the uptake of the services and the development of a downstream sector that would provide additional commercial services to the users. The development of the downstream sector is dependent on the long-term continuity of service, to be ensured by improved governance of the programme and renewed long-term political and financial commitments for the next EU budgetary period.

Read also ‘Galileo: Overcoming obstacles – History of EU global navigation satellite systems‘ and ‘Securing the Copernicus programme: Why EU earth observation matters‘ in PDF.

Estimated Galileo and EGNOS budget from the EU and ESA (in € million)

Estimated Galileo and EGNOS budget from the EU and ESA (in € million)

Organisation of Copernicus and key challenges of the programme

Organisation of Copernicus and key challenges of the programme

The evolution of Galileo's timetable

The evolution of Galileo’s timetable

Estimated Copernicus budget from EU and ESA since 2002 (in million €)

Estimated Copernicus budget from EU and ESA since 2002 (in million €)

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Revision of the Europass framework [EU Legislation in Progress]

Written by Monika Kiss (2nd edition),

6 people connected

© jemastock / Fotolia

With more than 60 million CVs created, the Europass framework is the best known European initiative for documenting skills, qualifications and professional experience. Despite having undergone several improvements since its launch, major challenges remain regarding its tools and services due to recent technical, educational and labour market developments.

The European Commission’s proposal would revise the Europass tools (and repeal Decision 2241/2004/EC). The objective is to ensure the realisation of the tools’ full potential and to update them so that they meet ever-shifting requirements (for instance, the increasing role of non-formal skills and digitalisation). It also aims to raise public awareness and to ensure better synergies with other online tools in the same domain, in order to allow matching, reuse and integration of data.

The proposal is based on two evaluations and includes four different scenarios which build progressively on each other. In the European Parliament, the Culture and Education Committee and the Employment and Social Affairs Committee will jointly adopt a report on the topic. The draft joint report highlights the importance of the voluntary aspect of the Europass portal and its links to other tools in the field of education and training. Furthermore, it emphasises the importance of the national centres and of respecting the requirements and expectations of all users and providers.

Interactive PDF

Stage: Committee vote




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STOA Workshop: Opportunities and challenges of 5G in the EU

Hashtag: #STOA5G

Written by Mihalis Kritikos

Businessman pressing button on touch screen interface and select 5g. busines concept.

Copyright: WrightStudio / Fotolia

5G has been described as the most critical building block of our ‘digital society’, as it promises a new wave of technology services – from driverless cars to smart home appliances – and mobile broadband download rates up to 60 times faster than from the current 4G providers. 5G will pave the way for an industrial transformation, connecting millions of devices simultaneously and supporting completely new types of application linking devices and objects. The technical, socio-economic and regulatory challenges associated with the deployment of 5G technologies has recently been debated at EU level. Both the recently piloted EU action plan on 5G and the latest interinstitutional agreement on coordination of the use of the 700 MHz band for mobile services in Europe illustrate the high political and legal importance of this new wave of technologies for the European economy and society.

On 25 April 2017, STOA is organising a workshop to discuss these issues, continuing STOA’s practice of discussing the socio-economic and regulatory dimensions of techno-scientific developments. The workshop will be chaired by Eva Kaili, MEP and STOA chair.

Register for the workshop

What to expect from the event?

The workshop will provide space for a debate on this key enabling technology and the opportunity to analyse the opportunities and challenges associated with the deployment and standardisation of 5G in Europe.

The workshop will begin with an introduction to issues such as the definition of 5G and the technical state of the art in this domain, to be given by a representative of the European Commission. This will be followed by two panel discussions:

The first discussion will focus on the new types of application and business model that will be enabled by the development of 5G, and on the 5G trials roadmap strategy. These issues will be discussed by Christine Leurquin (SES and 5G Infrastructure Association), Professor Dimitra Simeonidou (University of Bristol), Dr Joachim Göthel (BMW Group) and Professor Panagiotis Demestichas (University of Piraeus).

The second panel discussion will focus on the regulatory and policy challenges associated with the expansion of 5G technologies, with a special emphasis on coordinated 5G deployment across all EU Member States, the development of 5G standards and the availability of (5G) spectrum. These issues will be discussed by Giovanni Romano (TIM), Laszlo Toth (GSMA), Peter Olson (Ericsson) and Philip Marnick (Ofcom).

What do we know about the opportunities and technical and socio-economic challenges that will arise, and how can we prepare a harmonised and standardised spectrum policy that will deliver a meaningful response to them? Is 5G going to become a disrupter and a game changer? Are there security threats that need to be taken care of and what might 5G actually mean for users, industries, operators and other stakeholders? If you are interested in exploring these and other questions, register for the workshop before 19 April 2017 and take part in the discussion.

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