A year ago, Europe was in crisis mode because of Brexit and the upcoming French presidential election, among other things. Even us Europhiles had to stop and think about the future of the entire peace project. But the European Commission refused to be stopped by these challenges, and instead began a process which will define the guidelines for the EU’s future. In the spring, a wave of relief swept over Europe when many member states elected forces who emphasise the development of Europe as their leaders. In his speech at the Sorbonne at the end of September, French President Emmanuel Macron presented some ambitious suggestions for the direction that the EU should be taken in the future. The EU moves forward faster than it has in ten years, and now is the time to influence this development.
Students and young people (the generations who have practically lived their entire lives in EU-Finland) do not remember a time when passports were stamped at each border. For us, a shared Europe has always been a reality.
Only ten of the world’s top fifty universities are located within the European Union. The Bologna Process, which aims to standardise European higher education systems, has been ongoing for decades, but it is still difficult to get a degree from one EU-country recognised in another.
If we want to retain Europe’s competitiveness and for it to continue developing in the future, we must dare to focus on the strengths that can help us do well in a climate that is getting more and more competitive. We could be the top area for education and research. We must dare to examine the core of higher education and research. The fundamental character of higher education and top research – as well as knowledge – is international. Digitisation has taken over the world, but why do we still stare at the universities’ physical structures and countries’ physical borders?
In his speech to the students at the Sorbonne, President Macron proposed the creation of European universities. The European Commission also wants to improve students’ language skills and build a network for all European universities. Which themes will Finland and Sipilä raise? We hope that in his speech, Sipilä will not forget the role that free education plays as a force which creates equality and social harmony, as well as economic growth and competitiveness.
International Affairs and EU Lobbying Adviser