§ Mr. Charles Clarke:
I attended the Education session of this Council. Peter Peacock, Minister for Education and Young People at the Scottish Executive, also attended, and led on Youth issues.
The Council adopted the Erasmus Mundus and eLearning Programmes. Erasmus Mundus aims to provide higher education institutions with scholarships, offering further opportunities to attract overseas students, helping them to forge partnerships within existing EU countries and with third countries. The eLearning Programme has four priority areas: addressing the digital divide, promoting virtual universities, encouraging school twinning via the internet and promoting other transversal actions under, for example, the Commission's eLearning Action Plan.
The Council adopted a Common Position after first reading on the Decision to provide grants to European organisations active in the field of education and training. A budget of €77 million for 2004–06 had already been agreed with the European Parliament. The programme will now go to Second Reading.90W
Ministers adopted a Council Resolution on the importance of combating early school leaving and disaffection among young people. This encourages further work by member states on making learning more attractive and keeping young people engaged in learning.
Ministers also adopted Council Conclusions on human capital, which urge member states and the Commission to focus work on more effective investment on education and training.
The Commission presented its Languages Action Plan, which proposes action at member state and Community level for 2004–06.
The Commission's draft Interim Report on the detailed work programme on the follow-up to the Lisbon Objectives on education and training systems in Europe was the main focus of discussion. A report on this will be submitted jointly by the Council and the Commission to the 2004 Spring Council.
Ministers discussed the Presidency's paper on the future of EU Youth policy, and adopted a Council Resolution setting out member states' commitment to help young people participate in society, particularly in political processes. The Resolution also commits member states to report to the Commission on progress against the objectives by the end of 2005.
Ministers adopted a Common Position after first reading on the Decision to provide grants to European organisations promoting youth activities. A budget €13 million for 2004–06 had already been agreed with the European Parliament. The programme will go to second reading.
A copy of the Council Minutes will be placed in the Library in due course.