Chief of the Regional Programs Department at the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Neighborhood and Enlargement Negotiations Vasilis Maragos
I came not only to visit this excellent education fair, but also to discuss with your authorities and civil societies the future of the Eastern Partnership. As you may know, Azerbaijan is one of 6 countries which participate in this initiative of the European Union and we are now thinking and consulting about the future of this initiative, which so far has been very successful, inclusive and has produced a lot of concrete results in many areas, including by the way in education, in energy efficiency and in the way we deal with the interest and expectations of the people, including the people of Azerbaijan. Education is an important area, because this is what we have been investing in Azerbaijan and whole region for several years. We have spent important funds in this area, but in particularly we have cooperated with your authorities to implement vocational education and training reforms, but also to start the reform of the higher education. Mora than 1,300 people from universities in Azerbaijan participated in the ERASMUS programme, which is one of our landmark programme for exchanges in the European Union, and which is also available in the region. We hope that we can upscale this effort in the future.
Later today we will have meetings in the Ministry of Economy and Ministry of Foreign Affairs to discuss with the officials how we can advance our cooperation and how we can prepare the next period of activities under this partnership project in particular. Also, probably you know that we have signed partnership priorities with Azerbaijan and we are going to discuss how we are going to implement them, so that at the end these can be used as a basis for producing very concrete results in various areas of reforms of the interest of the people.
We have particularly participated with a big stand, because we believe that this will give good set of information to the people who will participate in the exhibition and they will see concrete opportunities which are offered under the ERASMUS programme and under the Eastern Partnership European School, which is a new secondary school initiative in Tbilisi, but also we are particularly we have many participants from our member states which are presenting their concrete university programmes and this may be very interesting for the use for Azerbaijan. We want to this as a platform for exchanging our experience. We don`t want to participate in a brain train, if you like, or whatever, but we are more for people travelling, getting the experience and then coming back to their countries in order to implement those skills or this knowledge that they have acquired. I believe that this is an area and the sector which unites us. Because we all want to achieve more in the future and investment in human capital and people is really essential in having a better future for our society.
I fully agree that this is an excellent opportunity and an excellent exhibition, because this is as I mentioned an area where we can achieve a lot together and this is an area where of course one can have competition, because you have to see what is the best university to go or to send your child, but this is also an area where we can have cooperation and the European Union`s programmes in this area are aiming at that. Probably you have seen that we are now going to have a new European Commission with President Ursula von der Leyen and one of the key areas that she has mentioned she wants to focus on is how empower people through education and investment in youth. So this is what we are doing here and we are doing this already, but we are going to do it even more in the future with the support of events like this one.