Youth groups warn Juncker about scrapping education commissioner

Demonstration for quality internships, Brussels, 18 July 2014 [European Youth Forum]

Demonstration for quality internships, Brussels, 18 July. [European Youth Forum]

Commission President-elect Jean-Claude Juncker will make “a big mistake” if he does not give a commissioner responsibility for education, the European Youth Forum has warned.

The European platform for non-governmental youth organisations said it was vital to have an education portfolio, because more than 20% of the EU’s young people are currently unemployed.

The Forum reacted to a EURACTIV story, published on Thursday (4 September), which gave a draft line up of the new Juncker Commission.

>> Read: EXCLUSIVE: The Juncker team revealed

Working documents, which are subject to change, showed that Juncker apparently will not keep an education portfolio, instead replacing it with one for skills, youth and multilingualism.

“Education should not just be about skills, but should be about a holistic approach, providing lifelong learning opportunities and formal as well as non-formal education,” Allan Päll, secretary general of the European Youth Forum, told EURACTIV.

“Juncker is making a huge mistake if he neglects to include education amongst the responsibilities of his new commissioners,” he said.

Belgium tipped for the post

According to the documents, dated 2 September, Belgium is going to get the new portfolio. 

On Thursday, the Belgian government announced that it was changing its Commissioner nominee to Marianne Thyssen, a Flemish centre-right MEP. Outgoing Deputy Prime Minister Didier Reynders was expected to get the job.

“If Belgian’s commissioner, Marianne Thyssen, does get the youth portfolio she will not have ‘the worst deal’ – as you report – but rather one of the most important jobs in Europe,” Päll said.

With 21.7% of Europe’s youth unemployed it was in fact the most challenging and, potentially rewarding, portfolio available, he said.

But Europe should not simply be churning out young people with skills for the labour market, but also provide them with a rounded, quality education, Päll added.

The rotating Italian Presidency of the EU has called for a summit in Milan on 7 October to discuss growth, jobs and youth unemployment. 

On Saturday (30 August), the EU’s new High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini claimed youth unemployment was the most important issue for the next Commission.

The 30 August summit chose Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk and Italian Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini to replace Council President Herman Van Rompuy and EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton later this year.

Within one week, Commission President-elect Jean-Claude Juncker is expected to announce the full list of commissioners. 

Juncker will next present a second list outlining the different porfolios each commissioner will have. Currently member states are putting pressure on him to obtain “important” portfolios for their commissioners.

  • 8-10 Sept.: New Commission portfolios expected to be presented

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