During his hearing in the Parliament, Jan Figel, Commssioner designate for education said more investment in education, professional training, higher mobility and simpler acknowledgment of diplomas and skills were the prerequisites for a true European labour market.
Since May 2004, Jan Figel, the Commissioner designate for Slovakia, has shared the portfolio ‘Enterprise and Information Society’ with Commissioner Erkki Liikanen. Having been retained as a candidate for the new Commission, he has now been offered the ‘culture, education, training and multilingualism’ portfolio.
During his hearing at the European Parliament on 27 September, Jan Figel expressed his belief that the Lisbon strategy, under which the EU should become the best performing knowledge-based economy in the world by 2010, will be the main priority of the new European Commission and the EU as a whole. Claiming to hold a “strategic portfolio”, the former chief negotiator for the accession of Slovakia to the EU notes that he will be part of the high-level working group on the Lisbon agenda. To help create a knowledge-based Europe, the Slovak said Europe needs more investment in education and training, and mutual recognition of qulifications and skills. “Mobility must be greatly improved, both between geographical regions and sectors of activity, in order to create a dynamic European labour market”, he stressed.
Presenting several specific plans, Figel said he intended to see the new programme of lifelong education approved as soon as possible. There should be wider discussion next year on the importance of universities, and Figel also wants to make Europe more attractive for foreign students and teachers by means of the Erasmus Mundus programme. As for multilingualism, Figel wants to see every student being taught in two more languages at school in addition to their mother tongue.
In the area of culture, Mr Figel wants to play an important role within UNESCO, talks on cultural diversity, paying attention to dialoge between the cultures and, especially, with Muslim countries. He believes that culture and education are vital aspects of European identity, citizenship and quality of life. “European integration is more than just an economic or geographical challenge, it is also a question of values, civilisation and cultural heritage,” he said.
Parliament sources said his performance had been greatly appreciated and all political groups agreed to support his appointment as Commissioner.