EURSC Reform

The European Parliament passed a resolution in September 2011 that has so far been ignored. The Parliament resolution, came after an extensive and well regarded study led by Jean-Marie Cavada. The Cavada report itself followed a report by the European Commission which averred that the process of reform that was launched by European Parliament resolutions in 2002 and 2005 had actually reached closure in April 2009 at the EURSC Board of Governors’ meeting in Stockholm. Closure you might say, what closure? Much work was left undone. The Cavada report bears witness to this and the subsequent European Parliament resolution called it out starkly when it:

1) Emphasised that the European Schools are currently in a legal limbo, which manifests itself in the unclear legal and jurisdictional status of acts adopted by the Schools’ bodies, insufficient possibilities to challenge those acts before national courts, no possibility of recourse to the European Ombudsman;

2) that considered that the current intergovernmental legal status of the European Schools has reached its limits and requires profound change; considers that this change should be of such a nature as to allow Union action to support, coordinate or supplement the actions of the Member States, without superseding their competence, and to adopt legally binding acts to that end within the meaning of Articles 2 and 6 TFEU;

3) Stressed the need to give the European Schools the foundation of an adequate legal base, within the EU’s area of competence, and hopes that the Commission’s Directorate General for Education and Culture, together with the Parliament’s Committee on Culture and Education – responsible under Annex VII of its Rules of Procedure for the promotion of the system of European schools – can be involved in any discussions on the subject and in any consideration of the future of the Schools; and

4) Considered that the European Schools should be brought under the umbrella of the Union; considers that an appropriate legal basis in this regard could be Article 165 TFEU, which reads: ‘The Union should contribute to the development of quality education by encouraging cooperation between Member States and, if necessary, by supporting and supplementing their action, while fully respecting the responsibility of the Member States for the content of teaching and organisation of education systems and their cultural and linguistic diversity’, and further specifies the aims of the Union’s action, which correspond to the aims of the European Schools;

Nothing meaningful has happened to progress matters in the intervening years. Only through intense pressure did the Board of Governors of EURSC agreed in April 2013 on the creation of an ad hoc working group. The working group was given the limited mandate of providing the Board with reflection on the current complaints and appeals system and possibilities for further development of the system. The Board of Governors being the body that is in legal limbo, the Board that itself requires profound change and the Board that Parliament considered to have reached its limits. The working group has so far not ventured to ask for stakeholder input. The truculent children appear to remain firmly in control of the EURSC playground. A playground of 30,000 European school children.

Standards at the EURSC and the stature of the European Baccalaureate have been negatively impacted. The Baccalaureate in 2012 was beset by problems, certainly the Maths and Chemistry examinations have left a rather stinky smell. Certain pupils have been directly harmed. That such harm has occurred is reprehensible.

Perhaps the fact that European Parliament remains ignored will stimulate Parliament to be more intolerant and insistent when it next considers the issues. It is likely to have an opportunity to do so in a few short weeks, when it considers a Petition seeking an independent audit of the EURSC and BAC 2012, specifically including Maths and Chemistry. Ironically it is also the need for an independent audit that was demanded by the European Ombudsman of the Commission after lengthy proceedings, that remains one of the key EU Ombudsman rulings that the Commission has decided to ignore and not action. No doubt the new EU Ombudsman will look afresh at this material failing by the European Commission on foot of more recent complaints and the EU Ombudsman might also feel it necessary to send the issue to the European Parliament.

At some point order and the rule of law needs to be restored to the anarchic playground that is the EURSC.

As a last resort will it take a successful case at the European Court of Human Rights to restore the rule of law, it would be quite shameful if that is what it takes.

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