Position:European Commission

The European Commission has foreseen a budget of euro 13.6 billion over seven years for the lifelong learning programme, which aims to improve the quality of training and education systems. The programme is comprised of four sectoral programmes concentrating on school education (Comenius), higher education (Erasmus), vocational training (Leonardo da Vinci) and adult education (Grundtvig). Within this integrated programme, the Erasmus student exchange programme receives the lion's share of the current budget - some 43%, followed by Leonardo da Vinci (27%) and Comenius (12%).

A vast majority of the new programmes will be managed in a more decentralised way than in the past by a network of national agencies. The Commission has proposed to increase the proportion of credits managed by such agencies to more than 80%. The remainder is managed largely by the Commission or delegated to an executive agency.

If the EU's financial framework for 2007-2013 is agreed at the December European Council - although many observers would argue this remains a long shot with the UK in the driver's seat - the lifelong learning programme could be up and running by early 2007. "That would mean that the framework would be adopted by the end of 2006", said a Commission spokesman, adding that it will take some time to make appropriate arrangements on how it will work via national agencies, as well as to get approval from the European Parliament as it wends its way through the EU policy pipeline.

The lifelong learning programme - along with most of the items discussed at the November 14-15 Education, Youth and Culture Council - will probably be on the agenda of the first such Council of the Austrian EU Presidency due to be held in February 2006.

Education and Training 2010.

Ministers also had a 90-minute exchange of views on the Commission's recently released draft Communication on the "Education and Training 2010" work programme. They were largely positive and downright congratulatory about the new report...

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