CULT Committee calls for exclusion of non-profit educational services from the TTIP

April 2015

The ongoing negotiations on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the European Union (EU) and the United States of America (USA) are a cause of concern for many educational stakeholders in Europe. Especially independent non-profit providers like the Steiner and Waldorf schools might eventually be affected by the TTIP.

Picture: US and EU flags by openDemocracy

TTIP is a proposed free trade agreement, which aims to further liberalise trade in goods and services by reducing trade barriers and harmonising systems. Despite announcements of the European Commission to exclude “services supplied in the exercise of governmental authority”, many stakeholders are worried. Not only is the formulation weak and opens the floor to various, and sometimes contradicting, interpretations, it also does not offer sufficient protection for a variety of non-profit services.

Civil Society Organisations active in the field of education have often voiced their concerns, but have managed to make themselves heard only recently. Since 5th February 2015, the European Parliament is working on an Initiative report, which is supposed to give the Commission concrete recommendations on the TTIP negotiations and is a joint initiative of 15 Parliamentary Committees. This helped to open up the debate on the TTIP and allowed for a more balanced discussion of arguments. Many concerns of Civil Society Organisations are better reflected in these debates and might shape the final text considerably.

On 16 April 2015, the Committee on Education and Culture (CULT) of the European Parliament voted on its Opinion on Recommendations to the European Commission. The original draft provided by rapporteur Helga Trüpel (Greens/EFA) called for an exclusion of educational services “which receive public funding or state support in any form”. This clearly reflected some of the concerns voiced by Civil Society Organisations and brought improvements into the wording. Fully privately funded non-profit providers, like most Steiner schools in the UK, would however not be covered by this clause. This was clearly not enough to sufficiently protect the interests of the independent non-profit schools.

ECSWE therefore decided to collaborate with the European Forum for Freedom in Education (effe) in a joint lobby-initiative. In order to better reflect the needs of all non-profit educational services, they successfully proposed and promoted amendments to the original text. Thanks to the support of the European Civil Society Platform for Lifelong Learning (EUCIS-LLL), all Members of the CULT Committee were addressed ahead of the votes, and finally a broad majority voted in favour of an exclusion “of all educational services which work on a non-profit-basis and/or receive public funding to any degree or state support in any form.” This is good news for all Steiner and Waldorf Schools in Europe.

The Opinion will now be delivered to the Committee on International Trade, which is supposed to vote on the Initiative report in May. The final vote in the Plenary of the EP is scheduled 9th June 2015.

Source: ECSWE

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