14.07.2016 | KPMG Law Insights

Higher education ministers of the Bologna states agree on even closer cooperation in Yerevan

Dear Readers,

“Everything is new in May” – this proverb can be applied almost one-to-one to the draft bill on the Modernization of Public Procurement Law recently published by the German Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology.

Another new development is an advance by the EU Commission in the area of EU state aid law: With a total of seven current individual case decisions, the Commission is providing general guidance on the EU state aid exemption of government support measures that have a purely local impact and no intergovernmental significance.

Also important are the innovations in the cooperation of the higher education ministers of the Bologna states: In Yerevan, the government representatives agreed on a new work program that should lead to the strengthening of the quality and relevance of higher education as well as to higher employability of graduates.

Finally, there is also news to report in the field of science: Starting in the fall of 2015, the EU Commission will be assisted by an advisory team of seven scientists to ensure closer links between science and politics in the future.

We wish you interesting reading! Sincerely yours

Public Sector Team of KPMG Rechtsanwaltsgesellschaft mbH

Mathias Oberndörfer Dr. Anke Empting

Lawyer Attorney

Belarus becomes new partner

Delegations of the now 48 Bologna countries met on 14. and May 15 in Yerevan, Armenia. The new partner is Belarus, which also agreed to the comprehensive reforms by 2018 that will be reviewed at the next ministerial conference in Paris. For German universities, too, the European Higher Education Area offers opportunities for interesting cooperation and a wide range of study options for students from Germany.

Review of the status of the implementation of the Bologna reform

The implementation report of the Bologna Process again shows a regionally very differentiated picture with regard to reform implementation. The representatives of governments and higher education institutions affirmed that the reputation of the European Higher Education Area is closely linked to the consistent implementation of reforms in all participating countries.

“300,000 foreign students currently studying in Germany are proof of the quality of German higher education. We will work closely with our Bologna partners, especially in Eastern Europe, to strengthen reform processes and exchanges,” said State Secretary Quennet-Thielen.

Work program with strong focus on implementation

The quality and relevance of higher education must be further strengthened in order to also promote the employability of graduates. Another focus of the European Higher Education Area is the promotion of student and faculty mobility. For the first time, the states also agreed on concrete improvements to the mobility of university staff, making it clear that the attractiveness of working conditions for academic and non-academic staff is key to attracting international experts and to Europe’s competitiveness.

Representatives of the Bologna states meet every three years to jointly discuss the status of the reform process in the European Higher Education Area. The next ministerial conference will be held in Paris in 2018. There, the signing of the Sorbonne Declaration in 1998 – the starting point of the Bologna Process – is celebrating its 20th anniversary.

Do the decisions of the EU Commission have general significance – also for the R&D sector?

This is new insofar as in recent years, in view of the convergence of the internal market, the EU Commission has almost never found an exclusion of aid based on the absence of an effect on trade – and thus at the factual level. Admittedly, with the General Block Exemption Regulation, which was expanded in 2014 and also applies to R&D subsidies, it has indicated that it takes seriously the self-imposed goal of reducing the administrative burden on authorities and companies and conserving its own resources. An exclusion of aid at the factual level, which according to the EU Commission’s press release is expressly intended to have a signal effect for the entire EU aid review, is nevertheless a surprise in view of previous practice.

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Mathias Oberndörfer

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