Last Sunday, Europe voted in a new European Parliament, causing some movement in the EU’s ‘tectonic plates’. The Union of Students in Finnish Universities of Applied Sciences (SAMOK) and the National Union of University Students in Finland (SYL) congratulate the newly elected Finnish MEPs and are delighted to see that for the next five years, it would seem, the EU Parliament and Finnish MEP delegation will be very student-friendly.
Political movement within the EU panned out as expected—the traditional giant groups S&D (socialists and democrats) and the EPP (European People’s Party, right-wing) lost almost an equal number of seats, while ALDE, Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, became the third major political group. In addition to this, the Greens became the fourth-biggest party, gaining a good negotiating position amid the usual big players. These four groups will presumably form an EU-friendly coalition within the European Parliament. Although the far right and anti-EU populist groups were expected to be heading towards a landslide victory, they were less successful in the end. For example, more than half of the EFDD seats are held by the Brexit Party which, as the name implies, will leave the Parliament after Brexit.
What do these results mean for students?
For the next five years, EU-friendly parties will probably work more closely together, taking EU integration further. The four largest political groups (EPP, S&D, ALDE and the Greens) are all very pro-education and will strive for smoother cooperation on education within the EU.
In the autumn of 2017, the European Commission launched the European Education Area project, which has been making good progress, particularly thanks to efforts by France and Germany. Finland has also been active in negotiations to define the objectives of the Education Area. Development of the Education Area by these four political groups should continue smoothly.
SYL and SAMOK have met with EU Parliament candidates on a regular basis during the last 12 months. We are now reminding the chosen MEPs about the promises they made to the student movement, most importantly:
– We need at least one Finnish MEP on the European Parliament’s Committee on Culture and Education (CULT).
– Funding of the Erasmus programme must be increased beyond its recent doubling.
– Vocational training must be returned from the employment policy sphere to educational policy.
Finland’s future Government will also play a major role in choices made by the European Commission and the formulation of the Commission’s agenda by the EU Presidency. The student movement is grateful that lifelong learning was highlighted as a key theme during Finland’s EU Presidency, but we wait to see what concrete measures emerge from the theme. We hope that the future European Commission has a Commissioner for education, research and innovation, because innovation and economic growth do not grow out of nothing. Likewise, the Finnish Government will be instrumental in terms of deciding whether the intrinsic value of education is promoted and vocational education is brought back under the responsibility of the Commissioner for Education.
The student movement sends its warmest congratulations to the new MEPs! Please remember that we will continue to be available for expert consultation on student issues.