The super year of European politics 2019: In what direction do we want to drive the EU?

The super year of European politics will soon be here. Next year, the European Parliament election will take place, a new Commission will be chosen, and Finland will be in the limelight with its EU Presidency period.

At the same time, we are considering what the most topical subjects of European politics are. Some suggestions are immigration, defence co-operation and trade policy. Sustainable growth, global challenges and safety are on everyone’s lips.

However, the discussion is lamentably narrow-minded. Education and know-how are rarely brought up. For example, in the keynote speech by the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, these subjects were barely touched. And even when these subjects are discussed, their connection especially to the stability of societies and to the well-being of individuals is not seen.

Why invest in education?

However, it is clear that a high quality education is a foundational structure in all healthy societies. Thus, building a stable, durable and prosperous European society also calls for a shared European vision about the importance of education. The actors of our union should keep this in mind.

We need a new kind of know-how in order to answer to the current challenges, which the whole world shares with Europe. Climate change, changes in working life and social exclusion are challenges that cannot be solved by nation states alone. Our union needs stronger co-operation and shared goals.

Investing in education and know-how is a good remedy for warding off both restlessness in society as well as inequality. Education also helps build trust in society and empowers people to participate in its functions. While Europe is in pain and its internal extremism is getting stronger, it is sad when education is forgotten in speeches and action plans.

What should we do?

It is true that the union does not have much authority within education: member countries are relatively free to decide on their education policies. Nevertheless, the Erasmus Programme has been created, and it is one of the most successful and popular European projects. It has enabled millions of people to be mobile and to implement their European identity. Participating is voluntary but worthwhile. Erasmus is a good example, and we need more good examples.

However, we will not see more good examples if education and know-how will barely be mentioned or remain in the side notes of keynote speeches. The human mind tends to think that the subjects we often discuss are important. The same is also true the other way around. If education is not discussed, it will not be held important, and its significance and possibilities will be forgotten.

Forgetting education and know-how is a loss especially for young people. They are tools with which a brighter future is built for oneself and for humanity. The European Union has a great opportunity to introduce a stronger intergenerational policy and to win over the hearts of young generations by keeping the kettle of themes related to education and know-how stronger on the boil. Of course, we also intend to participate in this work ourselves. During the autumn, we will introduce our own thoughts about the important focal points of EU politics.

Next year, it is time for the European Parliament election, nomination of the Commission, and Finland’s EU Presidency—all excellent opportunities to make an impact. Therefore, I challenge everyone to hold the flag high for education and know-how in the super year of EU politics. It is in our hands again to decide in which direction the European Union is heading.


Petteri Heliste,

member of SYL board

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