Estonia was holding hold its first term as the presidency of the Council of the European Union from July to December 2017. In the Council of the European Union, 28 Member States make decisions on policies affecting the welfare and security of more than 500 million EU citizens. The role of the presidency is to seek common ground among the different opinions of Member States, and guide the Member States towards agreements - to be an honest broker acting for the common benefit of the whole. The presidency will also communicate to the media and the international public, the process of reaching common positions as well as the substantive topics and issues discussed. The presidency is responsible for organising the sessions of the Council of the European Union and the duties of working groups – to prepare agendas and chair meetings. The presidency presents and supports agreements between Member States in negotiations with the European Commission and the European Parliament. In the last stage of the negotiations, the Council of the European Union and the European Parliament adopt decisions that are binding to all Member States and shape the day-to-day life of 500 million European citizens. Estonia, within the presidency, will have to address some 500 different issues.
Estonia organised more than 2,000 meetings in Brussels, and 230 events in Estonia. Informal meetings in Estonia will provide an opportunity to highlight important issues and contribute to the development of common positions. The Government will approve the policy objectives of the Estonian presidency, i.e. the Presidency Programme, immediately before the start of the presidency. The events held in both Estonia and Brussels will also provide a unique opportunity to promote Estonia as the country holding the EU presidency. More than 20,000 visitors are expected to attend the presidency events in Estonia over the six-month term of the presidency.
- Further information about the presidency of the Council of the European Union and its organisation is available at eu2017.ee.
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- Further information is available at the website of the Council Secretariat.
The key topics for the Ministry of Education and Research during the presidency
Our priority in the education field at the Council level is to take forward the initiatives of the European new skills agenda and initiatives further elaborated in packages on investing in Europe’s youth and modernising school and higher education. Our main focus will be on following topics:
- Modernising school education – Commission issued a communication on school development and excellent teaching on 31 May that addresses the main challenges and possible actions for future cooperation at the EU level. The policy field connects well with our own Presidency priority on contemporary approaches to teaching and learning that brings to foreground the need for education systems to adapt to a fast-changing world. Our flagship Presidency conference on this topic will take place in Tallinn on 19-20 September.
- Modernising higher education –
a communication on renewing higher education agenda was published on 31 May. We will lead the discussions on the main challenges in the higher education sector with a view to define future policy actions. We foresee preparing Council conclusions as a respond to the communication.
- Recommendation on tracking of outcomes for higher education graduates and young people who have followed vocational education and training – the Commission proposal was released on 31 May. We aim to achieve the agreement by the November Council.
- Revision of the Europass decision – we will continue discussions on the proposal for the revision of Europass decision at the Education Committee level with the aim of reaching general agreement.
- Recommendation on quality framework for apprenticeships – Commission should publish the initiative in September. Depending on the content, we may start discussions at the Education Committee in close cooperation with social questions working party, but foresee it being finalised by the next Presidency.
The main Presidency events in the education field:
- High Level Group on Education in Tallinn on 15-16 June 2017;
- 3 meetings of Directors General in Tallinn: DG Schools on 18-19 September, DG Higher Education on 12-13 October and DG VET on 9-10 October;
- Presidency conference on education in Tallinn on 19-20 September;
- PLA of ET2020 working group on digital skills and competences in Tallinn on 4-5 October, focusing on technological opportunities for skills assessment;
- Meeting of the Bologna Follow-up Group (BFUG) in Tartu on 8-9 November;
- Seminar of the Lifelong Guidance Policy Network (known as ELGPN) on 27-28 September.
In youth field we plan to focus on three priority topics:
- Future of young people and the youth field in EU. The issue of how we can better support and engage youth is under high importance in the current political agenda of EU. Discussions have started on the next EU Youth Strategy for the post-2018 period. Hence we would like to use this momentum and take respective debates further during the Estonian presidency. In co-operation with our trio partners Bulgaria and Austria, European Youth Forum and European Commission, we aim to focus on the involvement of young people into development of the next EU Youth Strategy in the frame of the 6th Cycle of the Structured Dialogue, titled: “Youth in Europe: what’s next?”. The next cycle is also expected to further improve the process of dialogue between young people and policy makers.
- Smart youth work is of equal priority for us, directly linked to focus on digital solutions of the Estonian Presidency, to the national strategy of smart youth work adopted in December 2016 in Estonia. It is also based on the work done by international expert group on risks and opportunities of digitalisation to youth, youth work and youth policy. We aim to introduce the term and the concept of smart youth work on European level and draw up Council Conclusions on smart youth work.
- Youth volunteering is one of the cornerstones of European youth field. European Commission has recently published a study on the impact of transnational volunteering through the European Voluntary Service programme. Furthermore, on 30th of May European Commission published the proposal for the regulation of European Solidarity Corps, which is aimed to enhance the engagement of young people and organisations in solidarity activities as a means to contribute to strengthening cohesion and solidarity in Europe. We acknowledge the high political priority of this legislative initiative and are fully committed to take this file further during the Estonian Presidency.
The Presidency events in the youth field will be the following:
- Informal kick-off event for Youth Working Party delegates in Brussels on 6th July;
- Meeting of the Structured Dialogue Steering Committee, in Tallinn on 20-21st September;
- EU Youth conference as part of the Structured Dialogue process, in Tallinn on 23-26th October;
- Meeting of Directors General on Youth, in Tallinn on 26-27th October;
- Informal breakfast of young people and youth ministers in Brussels 20th November;
- Meeting of the Structured Dialogue Steering Committee, in Brussels on 21st November.
In addition there will be several affiliated events organised by our partners in youth field during Estonian presidency.
Research and Innovation
The main topic during the Estonian Presidency will be the interim evaluation of Horizon 2020, including European Institute of Innovation & Technology (EIT) and Euratom. We are preparing our presidency priorities as the focus points for political level discussions based on Horizon 2020 interim evaluation results in the lead up to the preparation of the proposals for the next MFF and the 9th Framework Programme.
Estonia has two priorities that will also be the main topics for discussion during the informal meeting of research ministers in Tallinn on 25 July 2017:
- Impact and value of research: providing rationale for investing in research and innovation
In the midst of the debate of the future of EU, the Estonian Presidency aims to build a case for supporting ambitious investments in excellent and high-risk R&I. To achieve this, we want to build a stronger narrative on the broad impact and societal value of European excellent research that would speak to a wider audience at EU and national level. The results of the interim evaluation of Horizon 2020 as well as a wide array of recent studies on impact will enable the Council to promote policies that support increased trust and impact between excellent research, innovation and society.
This will be also the focus of the Estonian Presidency Conference European Research Excellence - Impact and Value for Society on 12 October 2017 in Tallinn. At the Conference the Tallinn Call for Action will be presented that provides steps for concerted actions of key stakeholders to move towards increased impact and societal value of European research.
- Increased coherence and openness of EU research and innovation partnerships
We aim to take forward the discussions of the next Framework Programme and contribute to creating a more coherent and accessible funding programme. In particular, we wish to focus on the role of partnering approach in the Framework Programme as we have witnessed increasing complexity of partnering instruments and initiatives in Horizon 2020. By partnering instruments we mean Public-Public Partnerships (P2Ps), such as ERA-NETs, Article 185 programmes and Joint Programming Initiatives (JPIs), Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs), such as Joint Technology Initiatives (JTIs), contractual Public-Private Partnerships (cPPP), Knowledge and Innovation Communities (KICs) of European Institute of Innovation and Technology and FET Flagships. Based on these instruments, many new thematic initiatives have been launched in Horizon 2020. This has made the landscape difficult to navigate for Member States as well as participants, especially newcomers. Estonian Presidency will start a debate on how to apply the partnering approach more successfully and rationalize the landscape, including possibilities for a more strategic approach to coordinating the long-term and large scale initiatives with a view of the FP9 and ERA governance review.
At the Council research working party we are planning in-depth discussions on several other key topics related to the Horizon 2020 interim evaluation, e.g. the ones specified in the H2020 regulation.
As the main output of our presidency we foresee Council conclusions on the interim evaluation of Horizon 2020 and future orientations for FP9.
Key dates for work in Council:
- Informal meeting of Research Ministers, 25 July 2017, Tallinn
- RWP/ERAC meeting, 21-22 September, Tartu
- COMPET Council (research), 1 December 2017, Brussels
Key Presidency events:
- European Union Contest for Young Scientists (EUCYS), 22-27 September, Tallinn
- Conference European Research Excellence - Impact and Value for Society, 12 October, Tallinn. In addition to the official conference programme, side events will be hosted by European Research Council on Widening Participation on 11 October and SAPEA (Science Advice for Policy by European Academies) on Science for Policy on 13 October.
- Manufuture 2017, 24-25 October, Tallinn
- Conference Nature-based solutions: From Innovation to Common-use, 24-26 October, Tallinn
- Conference Embedding digital into societal challenges, 7 December, Brussels