In its reply of 5 March 2020 to written question E-000111/2020, the Commission states that developing an indicative curriculum would lean ‘towards the harmonisation of the EU citizenship education curriculum, which would be, from a legal and formalistic point of view, not compatible with the principle of subsidiarity and the limited competences of the EU in the field of education’.
The Commission has competence to make recommendations in all policy fields in the Treaties (Article 292 TFEU), as well as in the field of education (Article165 TFEU), particularly to develop the European dimension of education. Harmonisation of EU law is only possible through legally binding acts such as directives or regulations, so this concept is irrelevant for recommendations. The principle of subsidiarity applies only to areas of shared competence. For a supporting competence, such as education, invoking the principle of subsidiarity is not justified, as EU action cannot override national competences, which remain legally unaffected by Commission recommendations.
On 30 September 2020, Spanish Member of the European Parliament (MEP), Domenec Ruiz Devesa of the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats, posed a written parliamentary question to the European Commission. MEP Ruiz Devesa asked the Commission “could it provide the legal analysis that concludes that the development of an indicative curriculum is harmonisation?” and “does it believe it should not issue policy recommendations in fields in which harmonisation by legal act is not allowed by the Treaties?”
On 02 December, these questions were responded by Commissioner Mariya Gabriel, responsible for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, on behalf of the European Commission. Commissioner Gabriel referenced the reply to Written Question E-000111/2020 and added that the Commission said: “‘Regarding the Pilot Project the Honourable Member refers to, it could be understood in two different ways: either leaning towards the harmonisation of the EU citizenship education curriculum, which would be, from a legal and formalistic point of view, not compatible with the principle of subsidiarity and the limited competences of the EU in the field of education; or encouraging the development and take-up by Member States of such a curriculum, which would be fully covered by the current Erasmus+ programme. […]’”.
The Commissioner cited that “this makes it clear that, in case a curriculum were to be imposed on Member States by means of a binding instrument, it would exceed the limited EU competencies in the field of education as provided for in Article 165 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union and that, in case it would entail the development of a curriculum by means of a non-binding instrument, it can already be funded under an existing financial instrument” and “this implies that the Commission is of the opinion that a purely indicative curriculum is not considered harmonisation, as otherwise, it would not be fundable under the Erasmus+ programme”.
In ending, Commissioner Gabriel concluded “the Commission believes that it can issue policy recommendations in fields in which harmonisation by legal binding acts is excluded by the Treaties” and “in the field of education, the Commission does issue policy recommendations through non-binding acts, such as Communications, reports or proposals for Council Recommendations”.
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