On 9 February 2021, Polish Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Beata Mazurek of the European Conservatives and Reformists Group, posed a written parliamentary question to the European Commission:
“It is clear that the COVID-19 crisis and its aftermath will cause lasting changes to the lives of all Europeans, increasing their specific need for high-level digital competences in every area of social and professional life. The financial resources for this should be distributed fairly: in other words, in proportion to the extent of necessary actions taken by the individual Member States and, within them, by individual regions to ensure that all their inhabitants, young and old, are fairly equipped with the requisite skills to support economic recovery in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Action needs to be taken on many levels to ensure that digital strategies bring tangible benefits to rural communities such as the region around Lublin, where I am from, and reduce the risk of digital exclusion. In the light of the above, I would like to ask the following:
1. How will the Commission support the Member States in increasing the level of digitisation of education and training provided for vulnerable social groups in rural areas?
2. Is the Commission planning to allocate additional financial resources to rural areas such as the region around Lublin to ensure that their inhabitants have equal access to digital skills, tools and technologies?”
On 27 April 2021, Jobs and Social Rights Commissioner Nicolas Schmit, responded on behalf of the European Commission stating: “The European Skills Agenda underlines that upskilling opportunities should be available across the whole EU, including in rural and remote areas.
Equal access to quality, digitised education and training everywhere in the EU is the aim of the Digital Education Action Plan 2021-2027, pursued through a number of actions. It announces a Council Recommendation, addressing among other things gaps in connectivity and equipment.
The Connecting Europe Facility supports investment in connectivity, including the provision of very high-quality local wireless connectivity in local communities, free of charge and without discriminatory conditions. The communication ‘2030 Digital Compass: the European way for the digital decade’ proposes EU targets on connectivity s to ensure that all European households are covered, including in remote areas, and fosters actions so that citizens have the necessary skills to benefit from the opportunities offered by new technology.
Member States are preparing plans to use the EUR 672.5 billion of the Recovery and Resilience Facility to address the country-specific recommendations under the European Semester, support the digital and green transitions, enhance cohesion and tackle the rural/urban digital divide. One of seven flagship areas, ‘Reskill and upskill’, promotes inclusive education and training for all ages, adapted to develop digital skills. Moreover, the European Social Fund Plus is able to invest in digital skills of people across the EU.
The forthcoming Communication on a long-term vision for rural areas will aim at enhancing synergies among the different policies, including skills, to support rural areas.”
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