What Flanders wants: Sectors deliver messages to Flemish MEPs

Summary

Ahead of the European elections this May, 26 organisations, research institutions, sector federations and educational networks have told key Flemish European Union politicians what they expect from them

‘We need to help steer the ship’

Vleva, Flanders’ liaison agency to the European Union, held a major debate yesterday among five Flemish MEPs and 16 representatives from business, education and research institutions. The debate was a follow-up to Vleva’s Building on Europe report in which sector federations delivered their priority areas to EU leaders.

The report covers priorities for European leadership from a huge diversity of concerns, from the port of Antwerp to the Go! Education network to Flanders Water Knowledge Center. Representatives from the concerns were part of the debate with politicians, who included Petra De Sutter (Groen), Tom Vandenkendelaere (CD&V), Kathleen Van Brempt (SP.A), Ralph Packet (N-VA) and Evan De Bleeker (Open Vld).

“On Sunday, 26 May, we are going to the ballot box for the Flemish, federal and European elections,” wrote Vleva director Jan Buysse in the report. “Europe has a huge impact on us. That is the lesson we learned from the crises of recent years. And that is why Flanders needs to put its stamp on Europe. Anyone working on the Flanders of tomorrow has to keep Europe in mind. And more: We need to help steer the ship.”

Some of the concerns and questions posed by Flemish organisations included:

Incoming culture: International artists from certain countries and the production workers who need to accompany them often have a hard time getting visas to enter Belgium. The Cultuurloket asks: What impact does the cost, paperwork and guarantees associated with these visa requests have on incoming culture?

Digital education: Pupils and teachers do not always live in the same digital worlds, with children growing up seeing digital devices and applications as second nature. The Catholic education network wants the EU to help ensure that teaching staff are equipped with the knowledge and skills they need to relate to pupils.

Agriculture: According to Flanders’ Farmers Union, so much freedom has been given to members states that the idea of a community has been seriously eroded. It asks that the EU work to prevent intra-European competition and to support farmers in reaching climate and sustainability goals.

Language: The EU should better support language proficiency, however casual, so that EU citizens can embrace a multi-lingual and multicultural society without feeling embarrassed at their imperfect language skills. The Taalunie asks that Europe support more strategies for formal, informal and non-formal language learning.

Vleva asks that any sector organisation with a list of priorities for Europe send it to them. “From investments in education to Brexit to climate agreements, it is clear that Vleva’s members believe in the importance of the European project,” said the organisation in a statement. “They expect that Flemish EU leaders do as well.”

Photo courtesy Vleva