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A brand new structure for the European Commission: Education, Research and Employment to complete the ‘Knowledge Triangle’

On 10 September, President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker announced the composition of his team, who will lead EU policy making for the coming five years.  The field of education remains within the competences of the Commissioner for Education, culture, youth and citizenship, assigned to the Hungarian candidate Tibor Navracsics. However, the areas of skills and multilingualism – traditionally linked with education – are now covered by the Commissioner for Employment, social affairs, skills and labour mobility with the Belgian incumbent Marianne Thyssen. Research will continue to be under the responsibility of the Commissioner for Research, science and innovation, assigned to Carlos Moedas from Portugal. Nevertheless, the Joint Research Centre – previously under the scope of the Directorate-General (DG) Research and Innovation – will now belong to DG Education and Culture. 

The main change, however, has been the introduction of a completely new structure with seven Vice-Presidents coordinating project teams composed of groups of Commissioners. In particular, the Commissioner for Education, culture, youth and citizenship as well as the one for Employment, social affairs, skills and labour mobility, and the Commissioner for Research, science and innovation will be mainly coordinated by the Vice-President for Jobs, growth, investment and competitiveness (Finnish Jyrki Katainen). According to Juncker, this will facilitate a closer interaction and combination of synergies, as he writes in the Mission Statement to Commissioner Navracsics. There, Juncker highlights that a major priority is the reinforcement of the 'knowledge triangle' between education, employment and research in order to promote growth and create jobs.  Among other specific goals of the EU education policy are listed the modernisation of education systems towards the targets set in the Europe 2020 strategy and the promotion of excellence and networking among European universities, with actions supporting the mobility of students.

It is to be seen whether the new Commissioners will keep up with the expectations. Criticisms have already been raised toward Tibor Navracsics, who holds a degree in law and a PhD in political science, both earned at the University of ELTE in Budapest. Former Hungarian Minister of Justice and Foreign affairs, over the past years his party frequently clashed with Brussels because of its record on curbing human rights and media freedom. On the other hand, the Portuguese Commissioner for Research Carlos Moedas has been pointed out to be extremely close to the world of finance. Engineering graduate at the Instituto Superior Técnico of Lisbon, former Erasmus student at the École des Ponts et Chaussées in Paris and MBA graduate from the Harvard Business School, before entering into politics he devoted his career to the financial investment sector, working for Goldman Sachs and for the Eurohypo Investment Bank.