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Notícies :: educació i societat
European convention & GATS: another attack on education
25 jul 2003
In a press release from 05th February 2003 the European Commission writes, that they won't propose any engagements in the fields of public health, audiovisual services and education in the current GATS negotiations. But the European convention is planning another attack on public services. It's time for a campaign…
That the danger wasn't stopped has been clear from the beginning, because it has only been a PROPOSITION of the EU Commission at the current GATS negotiations (A WTO-agreement, which should regulate the trade of services). An internal EU report made clear, that new concessions in the fields of education, public health and audiovisual services were took of the EU-proposition for the following GATS negotiations because of a veto. Thus there has been a majority to make further concessions in the named fields. Because of article 133 (paragraph 6) in the treaty of Nice of the EU every member state has a right of veto in the vote for the sections of education, health and social policy and some states made use of it. But this exactly what should be changed in the EU constitution. Only the field of audiovisual services should be an exception (there the right of veto will still exist), in the other fields the majority of the member states will decide, if the EU constitution will be accepted in its current form.

The liberalisation group under the leadership of the European parliamentarian Elmar Brok (CDU) and Pascal Lamy have achieved an important victory. In the declaration of financial interests of Elmar Brok
( ), which every member of the European parliament has to make, it says that Elmar Brok is Senior Vice-president of Media Development, Bertelsmann AG. The Bertelsmann AG encourages the commercialisation of education in Germany through the expressly founded Bertelsmann foundation and the CHE, which was founded by this foundation and the association of Universities and Other Higher Education Institutions in Germany. Brok has written on 27th January 2003 a discussion paper (under the registration number CONV/325/2/02 REV2), in which he proposes that the convention concedes the right to education concerning the fundamental rights (article II-14 right to education). In paragraph 2 he proposes that this right should include the possibility to receive free compulsory education, with other words he wants to establish in the EU constitution the possibility to levy tuition fees (in general, thus from the first term on) and school fees for vocation schools etc. Untill now this is free in some EU countries (Germany). The proposition made in the discussion paper from Brok was accepted. (EU constitution document 18/07/2003 CONV/850/03, article II-14 right to education, page 50).

Although some members of the convention (as for example Dr. Sylvia-Yvonne Kaufmann, MEP fort he PDS) have proposed that the negotiations and conclusions of agreements in the fields of education, social services, health services and culture as well as audiovisual services should still be decided unanimous by the European Council, thus with the right of veto for every member state, the majority has got through and now the new versions of the articles III-216 and III-217 are valid, therefore the exclusive jurisdiction of the Union and the majority decision. The first original draft of the EU constitution has still contained the proposed maintenance of the clause of Nice by Dr. Kaufmann and others (like Erwin Teufel, German Christian Democrat), only later it has been taken of.

Single exception is now the trade with cultural and audiovisual services:

"The Council shall also act unanimously for the negotiation and conclusion of agreements in the field of trade in cultural and audiovisual services, where these risk prejudicing the Union's cultural and linguistic diversity."(EU constitution document 18/07/2003 CONV/850/03, article III-217, page 166).

In the same article of the constitution draft it's said on page 167:

"The exercise of the competences conferred by this Article in the field of commercial policy
shall not affect the delimitation of internal competences between the Union and the Member States ,and shall not lead to harmonisation of legislative or regulatory provisions of Member States insofar as the Constitution excludes such harmonisation."

But this is not really reassuring, because the protective clause for audiovisual services and culture are kept, but for education and the other earlier mentioned fields it has been taken of. It is to be feared that the concept of common commercial policy which is fixed in the draft of the EU constitution and which should be based on common principles, will have priority over reflexions concerning education policy. In the same article 217 it is said that this concerns especially the trade with services.

The convention already showed that there are majorities for further liberalisations in the field of services. Only a minority was willing to make an effort for the old regulation in the treaty of Nice, which has, as described before, at least quite protected the trade with services. The German federal states didn't oppose against the new version, although the draft of the EU constitution is reducing their competences (education!).

While many people are occupied with the WTO summit in Cancun (which is good and important!), the EU establishes facts, which can't be cancelled after the acceptation of the present constitution. We have to put pressure on international as well as on national and federal level and claim for the maintenance of the exemption clause of the treaty of Nice which concerns the conclusion of agreements in trades in the fields of health services, education and social services. A first climax of the campaign could be the days of action during the WTO-summit in Cancun and right after during the EEF ( ) and at the afterwards demonstration from pupils, students and teachers in Berlin. We should also sensitize the public with well-directed actions during the Conference of European Ministers in charge of Higher Education (which takes place simultaneously with the EEF). We should start immediately with a big information and action campaign. We have no time to loose; the EU constitution should be signed on 1st May 2004.

René Schuijlenburg
"Education is not for sale"-Network
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