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For the first time since the country’s accession to the EU in 2004, on 1st January 2015 Latvia took the Presidency of the Council of the EU. The policy priorities for the Latvian six-month mandate are the same of the Trio Presidency overarching programme, agreed with predecessor Italy and successor Luxembourg, namely: “Competitive Europe, Digital Europe and Engaged Europe”.
Research and innovation are high on agenda in order to develop these three main priorities, in particular relating to competitiveness and employment –according to the work programme presented by Latvian Minister for Education and Science Marite Seile to the Industry, Research and Energy Committee of the European Parliament (ITRE) on 21 January. Translated into practice, this means a commitment to the development of the European Research Area (ERA) through the ERA Roadmap and an improved ERA governance, the mid-term review of the Europe 2020 Strategy and the goal to attract long-term private investments and build a sustainable cooperation between industry and research. Taken into consideration the new potential for science and research enabled by digital technologies and by the globalisation of the scientific community, the Latvian work programme also focuses on the Science 2.0 debate – a more open, data-driven and people-focused way of conducting research.
Concerning education and training, in harmony with the general priorities, the Latvian Presidency announce to keep a particular attention in developing a closer link of education with the broader European economic and social challenges – as highlighted during the meeting with the European Parliament’s Committee on Culture and Education, on 19-20 January. Special focus will be given to improving education, delivering the skills that the labour market needs and pursuing the modernisation of education and training systems, including lifelong learning, vocational training and dual learning schemes. The Presidency will also focus on developing a closer link between the Europe 2020 Strategy and the Strategic Framework for European cooperation in education and training (ET 2020). In particular in the field of higher education, an evaluation of the Bologna process is expected with a view to preparing for the Bologna Ministerial Conference to be held in Yerevan (Armenia) in May. Also, a support to the internationalisation of higher education between EU and Asian countries is planned in the framework of the 5th ASEM Education Ministers' Meeting that will be held in Riga next April.