Erasmus, Labour Spring Conference, Sex Trade

At the end of February I attended the Labour Party Spring Conference in Birmingham. This year I spoke at three seminars on fairly diverse subjects. One seminar was on education, one on campaigning on the web and the third was on fighting the sex trade in Europe.

Education is not normally an area where the EU gets directly involved. It is rightly up to individual countries to decide on their educational priorities. But there are a number of areas where EU cooperation can help. As Labour’s spokesperson on Culture, Youth and Education in the European Parliament, I spoke about what Labour MEPs are doing to boost cooperation in the field of education.

ERASMUS is one of the EU’s flagship education schemes. It allows university students to spend up to one year studying abroad. Needless to say almost everyone who opts to take an Erasmus year comes back with a broader outlook on life, enhanced language skills and increased employment prospects. It’s sad then that the Tories recently voted against increasing the grant for students who take part in the scheme.

Europe has traditionally excelled in pure science but we have a poor record at translating this into useful innovation, particularly when compared to the United States. I spoke about the benefit we can get out of the proposed European Institute of Technology.

Finally, I also talked about some of the work we’re doing to ensure that university degrees from one member state are recognised in another. More and more graduates are seeking work in another country. Mutual recognition of degrees will surely help their employment prospects.

I’ll write more on the other two seminars tomorrow and Wednesday.


Harriet Harman, Labour Spring Conference, Women MPs

5th March 2008

Spring Conference was a good event this year for Europe. The Party agreed that European legislation and policy would be an integral party of each session and that MEPs would attend the policy seminars on the top table with Ministers. As you can imagine, this was very well received by all the MEPs. Our legislative work has a real impact on everyone’s life in the UK. Maybe European Directives and the processes by which they are debated and agreed is at last getting the right level of recognition.

I was fortunate to speak in three sessions: the closing Women’s Plenary on trafficking of human beings with Harriet Harman MP, Barbara Keeley MP and Marianne Mikko, one of my MEP colleagues from Estonia. I also addressed the Education Policy Seminar in my capacity as Spokesperson on Culture and Education, and a workshop on women and the web, discussing uses for new technology.

The EPLP organised a session for the European candidates on the Sunday morning. This was a good event, and it was cheering to see a number of candidates there. No doubt we shall see much more of each other during the next year or so.