(Source: European Committee of Regions)
The European Committee of the Regions and the European Commission will develop joint projects to support teaching EU values in classrooms with the help of regional and local authorities and on voluntary basis. In a Plenary debate with Margaritis Schinas –Vice-President of the European Commission responsible for Promoting our European Way of Life – regional and local leaders also stressed that education systems should fully respect and promote freedom, equality, tolerance and non-discrimination. They also highlighted that learning about the European Union, its values, cultural heritage and diversity is vital and must be offered in all communities, for all ages and for every EU citizen.
Apostolos Tzitzikostas , President of the European Committee of the Regions, said: “I thank Vice-President Schinas for the excellent debate on how to promote our European values through education and culture. It is our responsibility – as parents and leaders – to offer our young generations the tools to realise that the EU made possible today’s peace and unity. This is what we must do today, if we want to have a tomorrow. Together with him and Commissioner Gabriel, we want to launch a pilot project to promote our common European values in classrooms. This will be done on voluntary basis and in full respect of subsidiarity, while using the momentum of the Conference on the future of Europe”.
Margaritis Schinas , Vice-President of the European Commission, responsible for Promoting our European Way of Life, said: ”Inside and outside the European Union, our European Way of Life is being challenged. We need all those who stand for the respect of human dignity, in a society in which pluralism, non-discrimination, tolerance, justice, solidarity, and equality prevail to speak up and act. I am pleased that the Commission together with the European Committee of the Regions will be joining forces and call on regions and cities across the Union to make pledges for the development of European classrooms. We need to empower our youth in understanding our common values, our shared history, our cultural heritage and the importance of diversity and pluralism for our European Way of Life”.
Anne Karjalainen (FI/PES), Chair of the CoR’s Commission for Social Policy, Employment, Education, Research and Culture (SEDEC) and member of Kerava City Council, said: “The values on which the European Union is founded are the essence of our common European identity. From these same values derive all our rights linked to European citizenship. This is why inaction at European level when it comes to breaches of European values undermines the European project. These values should be defended and nurtured in a meaningful way by all European educational systems and at all levels of education, from pre-primary to post-tertiary and vocational education. The European Committee of the Regions can be a powerful ally in this endeavour.”
During the debate, local and regional representatives also voiced concerns over the new Hungarian law banning LGBTIQ references for minors. The European Committee of the Regions will adopt its position on the European Commission’s LGBTIQ Equality Strategy in October. The draft opinion , which has been drafted by Kate Feeney (IE/Renew E.), Member of Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council, was adopted by the SEDEC Commission in April. It stresses the role of universal sex education in fighting stereotypes and discrimination and fostering diversity.
The Joint Action Plan signed between the CoR and Commissioner Mariya Gabriel’s services in November 2020 sets the objective of promoting together European values, identities and citizenship via education and culture at regional and local level. Concretely, this could mean developing innovative teaching material about European values and European diversity, developing educational campaigns or establishing networks of local and regional authorities.
The CoR adopted an opinion on Strengthening European Identity through Education and Culture (rapporteur Tanya Hristova, BG/EPP) in 2018. It recommends to promote language learning from an early age and to familiarise learners with a common European cultural heritage, European history and the processes of European integration.