[Check Against Delivery]
Member of the European Commission for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth
EU studies: Giving the young generation the keys to democratic participation
Jean Monnet Conference 2014
Brussels, 1 October 2014
Dear President Barroso,
Dear Professors Weiler and Monar,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is an honour for me to welcome you to this annual Jean Monnet Conference. These conferences are a unique opportunity for experts on European integration studies to come together and share their expertise and experience. They are also an opportunity for the Commission to hear the views of so many distinguished academics and experts working in a wide range of disciplines.
This year's event will be my last as Commissioner responsible for Education and Culture. Looking back over my mandate, I am proud to say that the debates at the Jean Monnet conferences have addressed some of the biggest challenges facing Europe: the economic crisis, sustainable growth, enlargement, political union.
From the perspective of education and European integration, policy-makers have been able to benefit from your wide-ranging views and deep insight. Indeed, the Jean Monnet community is a valued think-tank, promoting policy debate and exchanges between the academic world and policy-makers on EU policy priorities.
In this perspective, I would like to thank President Barroso for his constant, direct and personal support in making each of these conferences a real success and in promoting the high quality of the Jean Monnet community. President, this community owes you a lot and I am glad we strengthened it as part of Erasmus+.
Today, we will be looking at 'studies in European integration', the raison d'être of the Jean Monnet programme. For 25 years now, the Commission has supported activities to foster European integration studies.
Of course you know the programme - all of you are actively involved in it. But the programme is also a reference point for a whole range of stakeholders with an interest in EU integration, in regional integration and in the effects of the European Union project on the world of work, education, and international relations. And its objective is to explain to citizens the everyday impact of the European project on their own lives.
This is a key year for the European Union, and I am glad that we are taking a new look at the content and delivery of European Union studies. Looking at why they are important and what they should be focusing on, and how future study programmes and their alumni can continue to contribute to European policy-making and governance.
In this period where the European project is sometimes misunderstood, perceived as complex and even called into question by a growing minority in several member states, I believe it is high time that we give to students and the young generation the right keys to understand the EU, its functioning, its history and its political dynamics.
I consider it as being a civic duty for our education systems to provide European students with the right tools so they can understand better the democratic process they live in and participate fully into it.
Of course these EU studies are - and should remain - a specialised area in their own right. And the presence today of M. Monar and Mr Weiler, the rectors of two prominent institutions in EU studies - the College of Europe and the European University Institute of Florence - is a clear sign of the importance of this dimension. I take this opportunity to thank both of you for your participation.
But the introduction of a "European dimension" to other areas of study, in addition to the traditional European integration studies in law, politics, and economics, can also be of benefit. Our conference will therefore be looking at how we might better mainstream the European dimension into other academic disciplines.
The worldwide profile of the Jean Monnet programme - and the presence today of so many of you from outside the EU - bears witness to the great interest in EU integration in countries outside Europe. Let's use these two days to look at the reasons for this interest, and at how we can ensure a better understanding of the European project, its impact and its added value.
Our conference has proved very popular. I am delighted about this: we have also arranged for all our conference proceedings - plenary sessions and workshops - to be relayed via webstreaming.
To all of you here - and all of you out there [address camera], I know that you will all have views and experiences to share on this topic. So do have your say from the floor or from behind your computer: we will aim to take all your views into account.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am very thankful for your great interest in our conference and look forward to a very inspiring and constructive exchange of views: I wish you an enjoyable and fruitful debate.