Germany’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union 2020

Since 1 July 2020, Germany has taken over the Presidency of the Council of the European Union for six months. The goal of Germany’s Presidency is for a stronger and more sovereign Europe to emerge from the current coronavirus crisis.

Europe is facing huge and dynamic transformations with far-reaching consequences for politics, the economy and society, the scale of which is not yet clear. These processes are being driven by the coronavirus crisis, rapid technological change and the simultaneous efforts to combat climate change.

Dealing with the crisis, digitalisation and sustainable change in Europe

Germany’s priority topics for its presidency in the areas of education, research and innovation are overcoming the coronavirus crisis, combating climate change and the opportunities and challenges of digital transformation and the resulting changes in the worlds of education and work.

Together with its partners in the trio presidency – Portugal and Slovenia – Germany will use its presidency above all to launch initial measures to bring about the implementation of a European Education, Research and Innovation Area.

Priorities of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research

During the first months of the German Presidency, the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) has provided significant impetus for a future European education, research and innovation policy, for example in resilience research and research on green hydrogen, strengthening vocational education and training and for targeted, dynamic cooperation in the European Research Area based on solidarity. By signing the “Bonn Declaration on Freedom of Scientific Research” the BMBF has sent a strong signal, strengthening the fundamental values of the European Research Area. During the informal meeting of education ministers in Osnabrück, Minister Karliczek has launched the “Osnabrück Declaration”. Its objectives are to establish vocational education and training on an equal footing with academic education, modernizing vocational education and training in Europe and deepening cross-border cooperation in the European Education Area.

The coronavirus crisis has re-emphasised just how vital it is to invest in education, research and innovation, both nationally and at European level. For this reason, the BMBF continues to put important future challenges on the agenda, such as working towards innovative and excellent initial and continuing vocational training in Europe, the digital transformation of industry and society, Europe’s technological sovereignty, the joint fight against climate change and European cancer research.

The negotiations on the important European programmes for education and research such as Horizon Europe and Erasmus+ have reached a crucial stage. Here too, the BMBF as Council Presidency will strive to focus efforts on strengthening European cooperation on education and research as a lasting model for success.

Close cooperation with Portugal and Slovenia

The Council presidency rotates every six months among the EU member states. The Council of the European Union represents the member states at EU level and decides on EU laws, usually together with the European Parliament.

When the German Presidency finishes at the end of the year, Portugal will take over in the first half of 2021, followed by Slovenia. Together, these three countries make up what is known as a trio presidency. Germany, Portugal and Slovenia are reinforcing this model in the areas of education, research and innovation and have developed a joint roadmap that extends over 18 months for the first time.

Close cooperation among the trio is more important than ever in view of the current crisis. In such times, we arecoordinating our plans even more closely and forge ahead with joint initiatives.  

This includes the citizen science campaign “Plastic Pirates – Go Europe!” launched by the trio promotes the involvement of young people in Europe. School kids from Germany, Portugal and Slovenia are gathering data on plastic waste which will then be analysed by scientists from their three countries. This will provide us with information about the state of rivers while contributing to environmental education. It is the first time that that there will be an overarching joint trio activity of this kind.

Education and research policy in Europe

Education and research are essential elements of European cooperation which have been successful over many decades: European exchange not only helps to develop our societies further, improve the preconditions for individually determined lives and drive the competitiveness of Europe’s economy, but it also helps to ensure long-standing peace in Europe. Even if borders have had to be closed during the coronavirus crisis, it is imperative that they should not become barriers to us jointly solving problems, exchanging ideas and sharing resources in order to master the challenges of the future.

Important dates during Germany’s Presidency

The Council presidency rotates every six months among the EU’s member states. The Council of the European Union represents the member states at EU level and decides on EU laws, usually together with the European Parliament.

Minister Anja Karliczek is chairing the relevant meetings of EU ministers in the Education Council and the Competitiveness Council on Research in the second half of 2020. She has also hosted three informal ministerial meetings:

  • Informal Meeting of Research Ministers as a video conference, 21 July 2020
  • Informal Meeting of Education Ministers in Osnabrück, 16-17 September 2020
Unterzeichnung Bonner Erklärung EFR
Federal Research Minister Anja Karliczek signs the “Bonn Declaration on Freedom of Scientific Research during the Ministerial Conference on the European Research Area on 20 October 2020 in Bonn. © BMBF/Rickel
Informeller Bildungsministerrat
EU education ministers met with European social partners and the European Commission in Osnabrück on 16 – 17 September 2020 to discuss the Osnabrück Declaration for an innovative, powerful and future-proof vocational education and training in Europe. © BMBF/Hans-Joachim Rickel
Informeller WBF-Rat
Federal Research Minister Karliczek hosting the informal meeting of research ministers on 21 July 2020. © BMBF/Hans-Joachim Rickel

In addition, numerous expert conferences in support of the European research and education landscape are taking place in a virtual format as a consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic: