Cedefop Director James Calleja highlighted the valuable role that the agency plays in improving people’s lives at a debate on the role of EU agencies in the future of Europe, in Maastricht on 7 December.

The event’s aim was to discuss with law students, academics and practitioners: stakeholder and citizen involvement and trust in the work of EU agencies; expertise, independence and transparency; accountability of EU agencies towards EU institutions, Member States and citizens.

‘We live in times when knowledge and skills determine employability. Cedefop acts as a bridge between the world of education and training and the world of work. This is effectively accomplished through evidence-based information research, data sharing in interactive web portals, policy learning forums and exchange of good practice. Like other agencies, Cedefop is a European-wide platform that brings together new ideas, good practice and VET reform systems that give young people and adults a better chance of finding a job and progressing in their careers,’ said Mr Calleja.

The debate was organised as part of the ‘Europe calling’ events by the City of Maastricht, the University of Maastricht and the Province of Limburg, in the framework of the 25th anniversary of the Maastricht Treaty, which established the European Union.

In the first part, four agency directors shared with the audience the mission, tasks and future challenges of their organisation. The second part engaged the EU agency directors as discussants on the future of Europe and the agencies.

The directors of the European Food Safety Authority, Europol, the European Banking Authority and Cedefop highlighted the key objectives of their agencies, spelling out the future challenges they face in a Europe increasingly diverse and challenging on all fronts but particularly on security, banking, food safety and employability.

Mr Calleja spoke about Cedefop’s tripartite nature, indicating the important aspect of having social partners (employers and trade unions), Member States and the Commission determining its work programme. The three parties agree on a strategic programme, where Cedefop allocates more resources to its operational departments so that new evidence is increased, more vocational education and training (VET) policy analysis is shared among Member States and key stakeholders, and it continues on its new mission as broker between European policies and policy implementation.

Employable citizens

‘Implementing European VET policies is a key objective that requires added resources and more demand-driven planning. It is also the task of EU agencies to support Member States and, in Cedefop’s case, social partners in implementing policies that enable citizens to engage in learning and job mobility, in validating their skills and competences to become more employable and to facilitate access to all forms of lifelong learning,’ said Mr Calleja.

These targets will address long-term unemployed, early leavers from education and training, unemployed young people, the low-skilled of all ages, and those whose learning experience has been negative and who wish to experiment with learning by doing.

The Mayor of Maastricht Ellen Vos and the Rector of Maastricht University Rianne Letschert also addressed the more than 250 participants. European Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans, a local politician, spoke about the future of Europe.

Agency visibility

In his second intervention, Mr Calleja referred to the importance of making EU agencies more visible, particularly with policy-makers, social partners and government authorities. Visibility implies access to information that EU agencies generate through their research and outreach activities.

‘EU agencies have the advantage of possessing expertise of the highest quality and the necessary independence to provide information which reflects a truly European perspective,’ he noted, adding: ‘They provide independent scientific and expert advice in an environment governed by transparency and accountability towards EU institutions, Member States and citizens.’

Drawing conclusions on the issue of accountability, Mr Calleja stressed that, in times of reduced funding, sharing resources and rationalising human capital will be the challenges of EU agencies in the future: ‘If the EU is changing, agencies are also expected to change. Business as usual is not an option. EU agencies need to safeguard their role in Member States, their staff members’ future, and knowledge and experience accrued over several decades – in Cedefop’s case over four decades.’  He added that Cedefop’s value is its capacity to generate new knowledge to improve people’s lives.