OUR EYE ON THE EU | March 2023

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Education, Skills & Youth 

EU Ministers of Education met at the beginning of March to discuss the major challenges that their countries face with respect to their green and digital transitions, and which measures can be adopted to tackle the lack of skills needed for the green transition. This debate comes at a time when labour shortages in sectors which are key for the green transition have doubled between 2015 and 2021. The  Council of the EU’s conclusions outline how education can have an impact on the development of “green skills”, inviting Member States to engage social partners and education and training providers to identify reskilling and upskilling needs for this transition. The dialogue on skills is already happening at different levels, particularly since a formal political agreement has been reached among EU institutions about the European Year of Skills. However, pending issues such as the budget for this thematic year make it difficult to assess its possible impact

Meeting of the Education, Youth and Sport Council, 7 March 2023

The European Parliament (EP) is currently working on a document on quality traineeships in the EU. This report aims to contribute to debates and negotiations happening in EU institutions about the revision of the Quality Framework on Working Conditions. According to a study by the European Youth Forum, young people have to pay an average of 1000 euros per month to afford an unpaid traineeship, which ends up excluding marginalised groups and inhibiting  equal access. The EP is focusing on this point, with special attention to people with disabilities, and aims to push for binding instruments for all Member States that ensure the cross-border quality of traineeships. 

Social affairs & employment

The current debate on skills in the EU finds even more relevance in light of a recent analysis conducted by Eurostat. It shows that employed non-nationals are more likely to be over-qualified than nationals. This means that (young) workers with a migrant background, or people who moved to another EU country to find a job, usually have “more skills” than home-country nationals. This has been found particularly in countries known for having high rates of migration, brain-drain and (youth) unemployment, like Greece, Italy and Spain, where the highest share of over-qualified non-EU citizens has been recorded. 

In its March Plenary session, the EP adopted a resolution to address the current cost of living crisis through a new law to modernise and strengthen the national minimum income schemes in EU countries. MEPs expressed the need for a new directive on adequate minimum income, to support the social and economic integration of people at risk of poverty and those currently out of the labour market. 

Towards 2024 EP elections

EU legislators are negotiating new rules to be enforced at national level in view of the upcoming 2024 EP elections. There is a divergence on specific provisions concerning the targeting of voters through personal advertisements. Essentially, the EP wants to ban the use of sensitive data (sex, age, religion, sexual orientation) for political advertising techniques. Some Member States, like Poland or Finland, believe that these measures “go beyond what is necessary and proportionate”, while Germany and Austria agree with strict measures that safeguard citizens’ privacy

Civic rights

According to the Council of the EU, “civic spaces play an essential role in ensuring a democratic and pluralistic society and the proper functioning of public life”. In its conclusions, the Council invites the Commission to provide adequate and accessible funding to civil society organisations (CSOs), to enable them to be involved in and contribute to decision-making processes. It also encourages Member States to increase their efforts to protect, support and empower CSOs. However, this document is not legally binding, it does not produce any legal effects, nor does it trigger a monitoring mechanism on measures that Member States may put in practice to follow these conclusions. Therefore, it can only show the Council’s commitment to defending CSOs and the role of civic space. 

News from EU Civil Society

At the beginning of the month, European CSOs gathered in Brussels for the Civil Society Days, which ended with a set of proposals to protect and expand EU civic space. Among these, Inter Alia supports in particular the proposal underlining that “participatory democracy requires skills, especially transversal competences such as cooperation, critical thinking and conflict resolutions”. We explain in more depth our point of view on this topic in our position paper on the European Year of Skills 2023

Migration & Asylum

Ursula Von der Leyen has sent a letter to Italy’s Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni responding to the drowning that occurred in Italian waters at the beginning of the month, where more than 60 people died. The solution, according to the European Commission, would be to further shore up the Libyan coast guard and launch anti-smuggling partnerships with Tunisia and Egypt. This is coherent with what happened at the last European Council special summit, where Member States agreed on their toughest stance yet on migration, relying extensively on externalisation of EU borders to third countries and on the repatriation of people that arrive in the EU “illegally”. 

European Commission’s President, Ursula Von der Leyen and Italy’s PM, Giorgia Meloni

The European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE) is a leading organisation at EU level advocating for protecting the rights of refugees, asylum seekers and displaced people. It produced an editorial about how negotiations on the European Pact on Migration and Asylum are evolving: what are the interests at stake? What are the positions assumed by the different EU institutions? What could be the final outcome? You can find answers to these questions here