The Ministry of Education and Research holds responsibility for formulating and upholding national positions to the development and implementation of EU legislation that concern issues of education, science, youth and language policy. Co-operation between Estonia and the EU is primarily taking place in working groups of the European Commission and the EU Council.
In addition to the aforementioned formats, Estonia is also taking part of the education. training, youth and sport programme “Erasmus+” and the framework programme for research and innovation “Horizon 2020”.
Participation in the EU legislative processes
Following its accession to the EU, Estonia has participated in the decision making processes as a fully qualified member state. The drafting of EU legislation involves the European Parliament together with the EU Council and Commission, with the latter representing the interests of the EU as a whole. EU’s policies and associated legislation is formulated and enacted through the co-operation of these three institutions.
The governments of member states are represented by the Council of the European Union, which operates under the direction of presiding member state. The Presidency is appointed on the rotational principle with each state serving a Presidency term lasting six months. Three successive Presidencies together form a “trio”, which has to formulate a joint presiding programme and co-ordinate their actions. Estonia will hold the presidency of the Council of the European Union in the second half of 2017 together with the Bulgaria (I half of 2018) and Austria (II half of 2018).
Role of the Ministry of Education and Research
The Minister of Education and Research represents Estonia in the Council of the European Union, also known as the council of ministers, on matters related to research, recognition of professional qualifications, education and youth policies. The actions of the Estonian government in the EU are based on common principles formulated in the framework document “Estonia’s European Union Policy 2011-2015”. The framework document also clarifies the government’s primary goals in different areas of policy.
The Ministry of Education and Research holds responsibility for formulating and upholding national positions with respect to the proposed EU legislation and development plans that impact on the Ministry’s area of administration. This is done by officials and experts appointed by the Ministry to participate as Estonia’s representatives or formers of positions in the EU’s decision making process. On the level of officials, the work process is usually conducted in the format of working groups, which can be tentatively divided into two categories:
- working groups set up by the European Commission where work is carried out in order to prepare new initiatives – this format is used to exchange experiences and analyse best practices;
- working groups and committees of The European Council of Ministers negotiate EU draft legislation, which is eventually submitted for final discussion and adoption to the EU Council.
Participation in EU working groups requires Estonian national positions on issues that the Ministry’s officials can present and uphold in the EU legislative process. For Estonia, it is important that positions corresponding to the national interest have as much grass roots support as possible and that co-operation with partners is intensified in diverse fields.
Ordinary citizens, interested parties, specialists of education and science, municipalities, special interest groups, civic organisations and representatives of other institutions can present their opinions with regard to EU draft legislation concerning the field of education and science by:
- participating in web-based open discussions and consultations initiated by the European Commission in the web portal Your Voice In Europe;
- Forwarding their opinions to the EU and International Cooperation Department of the Ministry of Education and Research which co-ordinates all EU-related co-operation and information exchange.
Public consultations are initiated by the European Commission for the purpose of gaining insight into the opinions of citizens and stakeholders with regard to the development directions of specific policies. The consultations are used by the European Commission to compile legislation in specific areas of policy making. The consultations are published on the Commission’s website, which offers visitors a chance to express their opinions.
European Union’s public consultations by policy area.
- European Union and International Cooperation Department, firstname.lastname@example.org
European Union´s role in issues related to education and youth
In issues related to education, youth and language policies, the European Union primarily acts as supportive and coordinating body to the member states. The formulation of these policies in member states is their responsibility. They hold responsibility for the content and administration of the education system and youth programmes. The EU acts as a catalyst, fostering the development and co-operation between member states with respect to education and science. The Lisbon Treaty stipulates that the goal of the EU is to add a pan-European dimension to the education sphere. This task is primarily accomplished through teaching and promoting the use of member countries’ languages but also through advancing the mobility of students and teachers, improving co-operation between educational institutions as well as encouraging international youth undertakings.
Co-operation in matters regarding education and youth policies follows the format of open method of co-ordination, which presumes that member states work jointly towards common goals without uniform harmonisation of national legislations. For instance, the EU’s economic growth strategy for the current decade, entitled “Europe 2020”, establishes five common goals, which require that measures be taken on national and EU levels simultaneously. Two of them concern education area. The goal is to reduce the rates of early school leaving below 10% (Estonia has established even more stringent parameter of 9.5%) and to reach to a point where at least 40% of 30-34-year-olds completing third level education.The aforementioned goals along with other common aspirations are supported by the Erasmus+ programme created by the European Commission.
The development of science and techology
Developing science and technology is a divided competence between member states and the EU. The EU and its member states coordinate science policies and technology initiatives in order to ensure that the policies of the EU and individual member states are in accordance with each other.
For these purposes, the EU supports international co-operation between scientists and the accomplishment of science and innovation policy objectives through framework programmes, since 1984. The goal of the framework programme “Horizon 2020” that commences in 2014 is to increase the economic effects of scientific and R&D initiatives in order to find solutions to complex societal challenges. The Lisbon Treaty also supports the creation of European Research Area, which facilitates the free movement of scientists, scientific knowledge and technology transfers including opportunities for pursuing cross-border co-operation. The economic growth strategy “Europe 2020” envisions investing 3% of EU gross domestic product into R&D initiatives.