EHEA Ministerial address

Sjur Bergan, Council of Europe

Ministers, ladies and gentlemen,

The European Higher Education Area has much to be proud of.

We have broadly succeeded with structural reforms.  

Today, we will go from talking about the social dimension to adopting principles and guidelines. 

Public authorities, institutions, students, and staff work together.

Structures are about what we do.

The purposes of higher education - preparing for democracy as well as the labor market, personal development, and developing a broad, advanced knowledge base – are about why we do it.

But our fundamental values are about who we are. When we established the EHEA, we took them for granted. Today, we no longer can.

In 2010, Ministers traveled from Budapest to Wien.  Ten years later, a university traveled the same road, but with no return ticket.

In some EHEA members, students and staff are attacked and their universities threatened because they try to improve their societies.

Since August, Belarus has broken essential parts of the Roadmap with which it was admitted to the EHEA. Now we understand Belarus may even halt the recognition of foreign qualifications. As co-depository of the Lisbon Recognition Convention the Council of Europe has requested clarification.

Let us be clear: commitments are not optional extras. There are ways but there must be a will. The EHEA cannot be European in the absence of democracy, human rights, and the rule of law.  

As we start our third decade, we have promises to keep and miles to go before we sleep.