New European Commission and New Parliament!

The new European Parliament elected in May has started working and over the summer and has elected their Vicepresidents and Committees. We are glad Ulrike Lunacek, AFS returnee from Austria, is one of the Vicepresidents of the European Parliament, representing the European Greens, and thus part of the EP Bureau. MEP Silvia Costa from Italy is the new Chair of the Committee on Culture and Education (CULT) which has been chaired for years by Doris Pack (Germany).

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Jean-Claude Juncker (Luxembourg) has been nominated President of the European Commission by Member states and approved by the European Parliament, together with the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini, Italian politician and former Board member of the European Youth Forum.

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On 10th September Juncker has announced his team of 28 Commissioners, following the nominations by each Member state. M. Tibor Navracsics, Hungarian Minister for Foreign Affairs, has been proposed as Commissioner for “Education, Culture, Youth and Citizenship”. In his letter of mission, M. Juncker asked M. Navracsics to contribute, in particular, to promote excellence and networking among European universities, to reinforce the “knowledge triangle” between education, business and research and to support the work of the Marianne Thyssen (Belgium) Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility on youth employment, the development of skills and the strengthening of lifelong learning.

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M. Juncker invites M. Navracsics to make sure that “Europeans can fully participate in society and empowering them to engage”, which is a sine qua none condition to build mutual trust and support with civil society. Any mention of youth is conspicuously absent from the ‘mission letters’ outlining the responsibilities of Navracsics  and Thyssen.

EFIL welcomes the fact that Citizenship is now part of the same portfolio as education, culture and youth. However the decision to move “Adult Education and Vocational education and training” from DG Education and Culture to DG Employment may hinder the coherence of EU action in promoting lifelong learning as a comprehensive policy. Of course bridges have to be built between the two Directorates.

Unfortunately no Commissioner has been given the portfolio of Multilingualism, however it is assumed that this will be included in “Education, Culture, Youth and Citizenship”. This shows the decreased attention of the European Commission in promoting linguistic diversity within the EU as cultural enrichment and key factor for intercultural dialogue.

Commissioners underwent public Hearings at the European Parliament (EP) from  September 29th until October 7th. The EP’s Committee on Culture and Education (CULT) voted against Navracsics’ suitability for his assigned portfolio by 14 to 12: they accepted his appointment as Commissioner but deemed him unsuitable for his assigned portfolio, given his role in a Hungarian government criticised for attacking civil liberties. Though Navracsics’ centre-right allies reportedly lobbied for him to retain his portfolio minus the “citizenship” element, his opponents demanded an entirely new brief. Jean-Claude Juncker now faces a potentially awkward reshuffle of his team. Fortunately Thyssen, in charge of ‘Skills’, came out well during the hearings.

The final vote on the Commission’s composition will take place on 22nd October in Strasbourg.

The new European Commission will work following an innovative structure  where the 7 Vice-Presidents lead ‘project teams’ and will focus on general, overarching issues and coordinate the work of their fellow Commissioners when related to these broader areas. The Education, Culture, Youth and Citizenship Commissioner is to report to three Vice-Presidents (Growth and jobs, Euro&Social dialogue, Digital market).

With youth unemployment in the EU28 currently standing at 21.7% and the lack of active EU citizenship showed in the EP elections, unfortunately the structural reorganisation of the Commission seems to have been undertaken without any real focus on youth, education, culture and citizenship.

Read here the press release of the European Youth Forum.