A decade after its accession to the European Union (EU), Bulgaria took over the rotating EU Presidency for the first time on 1 January, and its programme focuses, among other priorities, on digital economy and skills for the future.

With European economy competitiveness being one of the primary targets, the Presidency states: ‘The digital single market, the access to innovation, the link between education and the requirements of the future labour market are at the basis of technological development. It is not by chance they are a major element of the programme of the Trio of the Presidencies, Estonia-Bulgaria-Austria, and a priority of the Bulgarian Presidency.’

It is noted that linking young people's education with learning the skills for the future ‘is the way to achieve a competitive, flexible and successful Europe.’

In the time of information and communication technologies, ‘it is a conditio sine qua non for these technologies to be widely introduced at all levels of the educational system.’

A key priority of the Bulgarian Presidency will be the continuation of the work on the European Commission package Modernising education – youth initiative and the progress on the New skills agenda for Europe.

The Presidency will work actively on the adoption of the proposal for a Council Recommendation for a European framework for quality and effective apprenticeships, ‘since it is precisely the young people who are the key to securing sustainable development for each country, based on the effective link between education and the labour market.’

Discussions will also be encouraged on investing in the skills needed for the development and use of new technologies, systems, platforms and services for big data analysis.

In addition, the Bulgarian Presidency will work on ‘modernising the European education systems and curricula by promoting the dissemination of common European values, social inclusion by means of formal and informal learning; consolidation of the role of teachers as key actors in the educational process and their role in improving the quality and effectiveness of education; revision of the European framework of key competences and wide-ranging introduction of information and communication technologies at all levels of the education system.’

The Presidency sees the future of work in ‘identifying the right skills for the new jobs and a better planning and interaction of the policies in the area of education, training and employment with emphasis on youth employment and the skills and competences necessary for the 21st century.’

According to the Presidency programme, it is necessary to recognise new and innovative approaches in employment policy and to focus on youth and a better link between education, skills and labour market needs.

The next generation of the EU programme for education, training, youth and sport (Erasmus+) will be prepared with a view to providing access to education and skills development at any age and promoting digital entrepreneurial and creative skills.

Finally, the Bulgarian Presidency will work to achieve general agreement on the proposal for a Council Recommendation regarding the promotion of social inclusion and shared values through formal and informal education and training and the proposal to amend the Recommendation of the European Parliament and the Council of 18 December 2006 on key competences for lifelong learning.