Education: Introduction [Archived]

The European Union seeks to integrate a European dimension in the education of all EU nationals. This is achieved by promoting mobility of learners and teachers in the EU, creating European networks and discussing new learning methods. The Community also promotes life-long learning. However, each Member State remains responsible for the content and organisation of its education and training systems.

Legal basis and principles Top


Education and training are areas in which Member States have largely preferred to go their separate ways. Each Member State remains indeed responsible for the content and organisation of its education and training systems. The European Treaties do not provide for "a common education policy" and harmonisation of the laws and regulations of the Member States is formally excluded. The tool used to promote closer co-operation in education policy matters is the "open-method of co-ordination". Even though the guidelines are set by the Commission, it is up to the Member States to decide how they want to implement them.

The Maastricht Treaty (1992) created the legal bases for education and training. In these fields, the role of the European Union is to:

  • contribute to the development of quality education by encouraging cooperation between Member States and, if necessary by supporting and supplementing their action (article 149 Treaty).
  • implement a vocational training policy which supports and supplements the action of the Member States (article 150 Treaty).

According to this legal basis, the EU develops a European dimension in education with these tools:

  • multinational education, training and youth partnerships,
  • exchange schemes and opportunities to learn abroad,
  • innovative teaching and learning projects,
  • networks of academic and professional expertise,
  • a framework to address across-the-board issues, such as new technologies in education and the international recognition of educations,
  • a platform for consensus, comparisons, benchmarking and policy-making.


  • 1957: The Treaty of Rome did not make any extensive reference to education. It simply stated in Article 3 that the Member States should make a contribution to education and training of quality. Early initiatives were based for the most part on Article 128 which dealt with vocational training.
  • 1976: Resolution of the Council of ministers of education concerning a programme of action on education;
  • 1980: Launch of Eurydice, the information network on education in Europe;
  • 1983-84: Stuttgart and Fontainebleau Declarations laid down the concept of European citizenship, which in turn promoted more cooperation between institutions of higher education;
  • 1986: The Single European Act (SEA) of 1986 further emphasized the need for a European dimension in education;
  • 1987: Launch of ERASMUS (European Community Action Scheme for the Mobility of University Students);
  • 1988: A Council resolution invites the Community and member States to integrate the European dimension into the school curriculum, teaching material and teacher training (in all appropriate disciplines: literature, languages, history, geography, social sciences, economics and the arts);
  • 1992: The Treaty of Maastricht provides for a more extensive contribution of the European Community in Education and Vocational Training
  • 1993: Commission's green paper on the European dimension of education
  • 1995: Launch of Socrates (Community action programme in the field of education), Leonardo da Vinci (Community Vocational Training Action Programme) and Youth (EU’s mobility and non-formal education programme)
  • 1997: The Treaty of Amsterdam extends the codecision procedure to vocational training. It was already the case regarding education in the Maastricht Treaty. However, according to the principle of subsidiarity, each Member State has the full responsibility for the organisation and content of its education and vocational training systems.
  • 1999: The Bologna Declaration sets up the objective to build a European area of higher education by 2010;
  • 2000: The Lisbon European Council called on education ministers to agree on a set of Future Concrete Objectives of Education and Training Systems by 2010.
  • 2002: The Barcelona European Council calls on the Member States to "promote the European dimension in education and its integration into pupils basic skills by 2004" and sets the objective of making the EU educative and training systems a world quality reference by 2010.
  • 2002: To celebrate the first million of "Erasmus students", the Commission launches a European Erasmus Week from 18 to 25 October 2002.
  • 2003: During their summit in Berlin on 18-19 September, education minister s from 40 European countries agreed on measures to speed up the development of the European Higher Education Area, notably to make their academic degrees comparable by 2005

Non-assigned links

Subscribe to our newsletters