Your broad portfolio which encompasses Education, Culture, Youth and Sport can play a key role in turning Europe from a thought to a feeling for Europeans. Would you agree, and how do you think these four pillars can better work together for European citizens?

I agree, and would go even a step further: Europe needs to be not only a feeling, but also a strong part of our identity – alongside our local, regional and national identities. My portfolio combines four areas that have a big role to play in fostering a European identity and a sense of belonging. And we already benefit from plenty of synergies between these areas:  just look at the Erasmus+ programme, combining education, youth and sport; or the DiscoverEU initiative, which brings together informal learning and culture. The European Year of Cultural Heritage in 2018 was another example: with young people a particular target group, the Year was geared towards preserving cultural heritage for future generations and raising their awareness of its importance. However, I agree that this work is never completed and that we can certainly find further synergies. The on-going discussions on the future of the funding programmes in these areas offer an excellent opportunity to do just that.

 

Local and regional authorities are central in promoting and celebrating the artistic and cultural life of their communities, are empowered through multi-level governance and decentralization of educational policy, and promote sport and healthy lifestyles. How can the Commission work further with local and regional authorities in these key policy areas for Europe’s future?

At the institutional level the European Commission works very closely with the Committee of the Regions, a valuable partner providing input on everything we do.

Just as importantly, local and regional authorities are involved in all main activities. For example, the European Week of Sport, which I launched in 2015, is successful because it involves people in physical activity where they live, in regions, cities and towns across Europe. In 2018, 13 million people took part in more than 50,000 events in 42 countries and regions. Likewise, the 2018 European Year of Cultural Heritage was everything but a “Brussels” event, involving at least 7.5 million people in more than 13,000 events organised across 37 countries. We also support local and regional authorities in their daily work. For example, the Cultural and Creative Cities Monitor, developed by the Commission’s in-house science service, the Joint Research Centre, helps policy-makers in towns and cities make the most of culture in driving economic development and social cohesion. Our experts have been developing this interactive tool, and I look forward to presenting an updated and expanded version later this year.

 

The CoR advocates that culture and cultural heritage should be better incorporated into the priorities of the next Multi-Annual Financial Framework both through mainstreaming and synergies with other programmes and policies and setting a higher budgetary target. In your view, how can these ambitions be met?

Indeed, culture and cultural heritage are, by their nature, transversal and have to be embedded in other policies. This also applies to relevant funding – I fully share the Committee’s views also reflected in the excellent report of the rapporteur, Adam Karacsony (EPP/HU), that they need to be seen as a strategic priority in the future policy programmes and the EU’s next long-term budget for 2021-2027, as they contribute to investment in Europe’s human and cultural capital and help promote Europe’s values, which is probably more important today than ever.

During the European Year of Cultural Heritage 2018, the Commission made substantial funding available for cultural heritage projects across different EU funding programmes. I will continue working to build synergies across programmes to reach the best possible deal for culture and heritage. To this end, I presented a set of actions at the end of last year designed to help us promote and protect cultural heritage over the coming years. I trust that these actions can be a valuable source of inspiration for decision-makers at the regional and local level.

 

The need for a paradigm shift from STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) to STEAM (including Arts) education and the timeliness of extending creative and critical thinking to all levels of education and training have been identified as key elements for a competitive Europe. What more could the Commission do to support local and regional authorities and Member States in this paradigm shift?

Indeed there is a need to shift from STEM to STEAM, to underline that creativity and critical thinking need to go hand in hand, that science and arts are both central for innovation. Many young people still see STEM subjects as difficult or unattractive. We need to do more than just stimulate children’s interest in the fundamentals of maths and science at school. They need to understand how applying these competences and their own imagination can help shape the world. This vision is clearly reflected across the eight Key Competences I proposed to Member States and which they have agreed to. The Commission can support Member States, regional and local authorities in advancing the STEAM agenda. We need more role models in STEAM and we need to ensure that teachers – regardless of what subjects they teach – get the support and training they need to feel confident in this interdisciplinary approach at all levels of education.

 

A topic of particular interest in our series of EPP Local Dialogues with citizens has been the future of education and the opportunities available for our young generation. As we head towards the European elections, a new Commission and a new programming cycle, how would you respond to this citizen concern?

Studies show that young people are the most European-minded generation of all. Young people tend to be more positive about the EU than older generations. Yet, many young people often mention that they do not feel they are being heard by politicians – and too many of them tend not to vote in European Parliament elections. That is why I have invested a lot in broadening the EU’s dialogue with young people, to reach more young people from all parts of society. But we want to do more and this is why Erasmus+, the European Solidarity Corps and DiscoverEU are so important. Each in their own way empowers young people to fulfil their potential while building their European identity – and helping us shape resilient, cohesive societies. We have therefore proposed to significantly boost all of these actions in the future EU budget – to show that we want to invest more in all young people. I know that the Committee of the Regions supports this, and I count on you to continue standing by this objective in the negotiations.

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