On 25-26 June, during the European Council meeting in Brussels, the Heads of States and Governments of the EU endorsed the Country Specific Recommendations (CSRs) 2015, thus concluding the 2015 European Semester. The ball is now on Member States' halves, which are due to implement the endorsed Recommendations within the next 12-18 months. Proposed by the European Commission in May 2015 for each Member State - with the exception of Greece and Cyprus due to their Economic Adjustment Programmes - CSRs' main focus is on tackling unemployment and increasing employability in Europe. In parallel, they continue to have a broad influence on the education sector and on teachers, especially in those countries where youth unemployment is high.

Also this year, 12 EU Member States[1] received Recommendations directly targeting education and training system reforms and budgets. 'During this year, education systems in several European countries have undergone important reforms and budget restructuring, in line with last year's country specific recommendations of the European Semester on education, causing many industrial actions across Europe' said Martin Romer, ETUCE European Director, commenting on the conclusion of the 2015 European Semester. 'As a matter of fact', he stressed 'No education reform plan could prove successful and effective without the involvement of education trade unions. The new European Commission and Parliament are stepping in the right direction when pledging a greater involvement of social partners in the European Semester. However, there is still a long way to go before teachers, students, parents and the whole school community feel the ownership of such reforms'.

Ending on a positive note, as ETUCE reported in May, teachers' training and teachers' continuous professional development is one of the main priorities of the 2015 CSRs on education. The European Commission has recommended to implement reforms targeting the promotion of the initial and continuous professional development of teachers, as crucial to improve basic skills, reduce early school leaving, and also to stem the decline in educational outcomes where needed.

'We definitely welcome the fact that the European institutions and national governments have realised the importance of teachers' training and their continuous professional development' continued Martin Rømer. 'However, it is no surprise for us. Teacher unions have relentlessly warned of the risk of shortage of qualified teachers due to the economic crisis and the reduced investment in education. Teachers are central for quality education. They bear the biggest responsibility for educational outcomes: towards their students, the parents and society. Across Europe, teachers are forced to undertake professional development courses with their own resources during their private time. It is high time that national government and European institutions take their responsibility too, listening to the teachers' voice the former and respecting national specificities  the latter'.

The Council meeting of Economic and Finance ministers of the EU will formally adopt the 2015 CSRs next 14 July.

For the ETUCE report on national Country Specific Recommendations on education and training, click here

For the European Commission's website on the Country Specific Recommendations 2015, click here

For an overview of national progress to Europe 2020, click here

[1] AT, BG, CZ, EE, HU, IT, LT, LV, MT, RO, SK, UK.