Helsinki, 18 September 2006
Antti Kalliomäki, Minister of Education and Science: Conference on EU-Russian higher education 18 - 19 September 2006
I am delighted to see that this EU-Russia Conference has gathered such a great number of participants here in the Finnish autumn.
One of the priorities during the Finnish EU Presidency is to develop cooperation between the European Union and Russia. The promotion of EU-Russia mobility is also high on the agenda.
Cooperation between the EU and Russia is structured by four so-called Common Spaces. Cooperation on higher education belongs to the Fourth Common Space (which relates to research and education, including culture). The practical implementation of these Common Spaces is guided by Road Maps.
Finland's aim is to promote the implementation of the Road Maps by stepping up concrete cooperation. This Conference explores ways to promote EU-Russia cooperation on higher education through the theme of mobility.
Mobility is a key area. It diffuses development input in other cooperation areas widely to the education sector. It is vital to explore possibilities to increase student and teacher mobility between the EU and Russia and look for ways to boost mobility.
The main content of the Education Road Map is to implement the Bologna process. It has great significance for both Russia and the EU countries and has provided a basis for the achievement of common aims. The main aims stress the importance of easily comparable degrees, student and teacher mobility and the quality of education for the implementation process.
The European Union has two educational programmes which can be used to finance higher education cooperation between the Union and Russia. These programmes are Tempus and Erasmus Mundus. They are important instruments, but they, or corresponding instruments, need to be further developed.
The change in the structure of EU external relations is a challenge for the education sector. Now is the time to seize every opening opportunity to improve the synergy and complementarity of existing national and EU programmes. In decisions on common financing instruments, it is important to step up well-working programmes and to ensure their continuity.
Ladies and gentlemen
Russia's vast entity of higher education, comprising some 700 state and 700 private universities, is an important resource for the international education and science community. Personally, I have always considered cooperation with Russia important.
In this, Finland has long traditions. The most recent protocol on educational and scientific cooperation between Finland and Russia was signed during my visit to Moscow last autumn.
In this protocol, our countries agree on cooperation in the fields of education and research and on the active participation of both countries in the building of the European Higher Education Area by 2010.
The protocol also covers mobility and quality enhancement. One important pilot in our cooperation is the Finno-Russian Cross Border University comprising five Finnish and four Russia universities, which focuses on developing Joint Master's Programmes.
I take great pleasure in the fact that we can here discuss these aims and principles of cooperation amongst all the EU countries and Russia.
Ladies and gentlemen
The renewal of the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement between the EU and Russia is currently under discussion. The Fourth Common Space I mentioned earlier is an important starting point in the preparation of the new agreement.
With regard to the Northern Dimension, we have already progressed far. The intention is to sign the new political framework agreement during this autumn. It will provide even better opportunities for deepening cooperation, also in the fields of education, research and culture.
I would - ladies and gentlemen - like to thank the Commission and other Union officials for their contribution to the arrangement of this Conference. Our gratitude is also due to the Centre for International Mobility, the University of Helsinki and its Chancellor.
Finland's Presidency of the European Union has given us this excellent opportunity to promote interaction and mobility between higher education institutions in the EU and in Russia.
I extend my best wishes for the success of your conference and look forward to the results and conclusions.
(With your help we can find means and good practices for facilitating cooperation and mobility. I hope this will further strengthen the existing contacts between higher education personnel and open diverse new forms of cooperation in the fields of education, research and technology in Europe..)