On the 13th of May, Neth-ER hosted the webinar ‘’What is the European Education Area and how to shape it?’’, with Nuffic, MBO Raad and VH. During the webinar, experts from the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, the European Commission DG EAC and organisations from the field provided insights on the EEA and the interim evaluation.

Shaping the European Education Area: Insights from the Neth-ER webinar

An umbrella and an ongoing process

The first presentation was given by Arthur Belle, Senior Policy Officer Higher Education, Ministry of Education, Culture and Science. He provided an introductory overview of the European Education Area (EEA) and its developments and shared key recommendations from the Dutch government. He traced the EEA's evolution from the Erasmus+ programme in 1987 to its formal establishment in 2017, noting milestones, such as the Lisbon Recognition Convention in 1997 and the Bologna Process from 1999. These initiatives paved the way for higher education reforms and cross-border cooperation. The EEA’s goal is to create a common space for quality education and lifelong learning for all EU citizens. Belle outlined some substantive and governance recommendations from the Dutch Ministry's position paper on the EEA. For example, the government prefers to see more transparency regarding financial instruments supporting the realisation of the EEA, and better representation of vocational education in the EEA. Furthermore, governance recommendations include increasing the effectiveness of Commission DG-meetings and EEA Strategic Working Groups by clearly defining their role and working methods. Furthermore, Belle noted that more synergies could be identified and fostered between the EEA and the European Higher Education Area (EHEA).

Mobility, skills, recognition, and inclusion

Dominique Selier, policy officer, Neth-ER, presented the Neth-ER position paper on the EEA that was published as a contribution to the public consultation on the interim evaluation. She highlighted four main points, namely: learning mobility, European skills and talent development, mutual and automatic recognition (AR), and inclusive cooperation. Neth-ER promotes inclusive and balanced learning mobility, advocating for adequate funding, clear policies, and research to enhance the EEA strategies. It emphasises diverse mobility opportunities, including internationalisation@home and greener mobility forms. The New Skills Agenda and lifelong learning are integral for competitiveness and the green and digital transitions, focusing on STEAM education, and a European citizenship education framework. Furthermore, Selier urged on behalf of Neth-ER for streamlined recognition policies, such as through the Benelux-Baltic Treaty, and mutual professional recognition to address labour shortages. Lastly, she emphasised that inclusive cooperation through strategic partnerships and an ecosystems approach is vital for transforming the EEA and tackling societal challenges.

Why contribute to the public consultation?

Petra Krajcar, Policy Assistant, DG EAC Unit A1, presented the public consultation on the interim evaluation of the EEA, detailing its objectives. The evaluation aims to assess the EEA’s progress towards the EEA. The objective of the EEA is to promote quality education and lifelong learning across the EU, with a focus on inclusivity and resilience in national education systems. Krajcar outlined strategic priorities, such as enhancing digital and green transitions, and improving teacher competences. She provided a timeline of key milestones, including the 2021 Council Resolution on strategic cooperation in education, and the EEA midterm review process of 2023. Furthermore, Krajcar explained that the evaluation criteria covered the relevance, effectiveness, efficiency, and coherence of the EEA’s initiatives, as well as the added value of EU-level actions. Krajcar also highlighted ongoing and upcoming consultations and data collection efforts to refine and advance the EEA’s goals by 2025 and onwards​​. Krajcar called upon all stakeholders to fill in the consultation.

Mutual and automatic recognition

Jenneke Lokhoff, Senior Policy Officer, Nuffic ENIC/NARIC, interactive presentation focused on the concept and implementation of Automatic Recognition within the EEA. AR aims to simplify and acknowledge the recognition of qualifications and degrees across national systems. Lokhoff traced the (re)emergence of AR from the Bologna Process to the 2018 European Council recommendation on promoting automatic mutual recognition. Moreover, she highlighted the criteria for AR, such as accreditation and shared quality assurance standards. She illustrated the coexistence of different AR implementation models, including de facto practices, bilateral agreements, and legal frameworks. Then, Lokhoff elaborated on AR within the Dutch context, with the example of the Baltic-Benelux AR Treaty. Insights from a survey on AR practices among EEA countries emphasised the need for consistent, fair, and rapid recognition processes to support student and professional mobility​​.

An ecosystems approach

Scilla van Cuijlenborg, Senior Policy Advisor, MBO Raad, gave the last presentation. She explained that the rapidly changing job market poses challenges for education systems, demanding skills, such as problem-solving, creativity, and adaptability in the Netherlands and the rest of Europe. To address this, ecosystems involving education systems and businesses at regional and local levels are crucial. National and European policies must adapt to these regional dynamics. She argued that promoting lifelong learning and bridging the gap between education and innovation is essential. Centres of Vocational Excellence (CoVEs) bring together local, regional, and national partners, creating ‘skills ecosystems’ that drive regional development and innovation. Furthermore, she announced that the MBO Raad wrote a position paper in which it recommends developing public-private partnerships between VET providers and businesses, facilitating the maturity of CoVEs, increasing VET financing in Erasmus+, and ensuring an equal and clear role for VET research within the EEA and European Research Area (ERA).


The webinar aimed to increase knowledge about the EEA and guide stakeholders in shaping its future from 2025 onwards. The Commission's public consultation for an interim evaluation of the EEA is open until June 27, inviting feedback from teachers, education institutions, civil society organizations, citizens, and authorities. The results will help evaluate the EEA's progress, efficiency, governance, and synergies with other policies, contributing to the EEA's future from 2026 to 2030.

A recording of the webinar can be found under this link.


Co-written by Fleur Korte.