First phase: developing common principles and tools
The Copenhagen Process was launched by the Copenhagen Declaration, approved on 30 November 2002 by ministers responsible for vocational education and training in the Member States, candidate countries, EFTA-EEA countries, the European Social Partners and the European Commission.
They agreed on priorities and strategies for the promotion of mutual trust, transparency and recognition of competences and qualifications in order to increase mobility and facilitate access to lifelong learning. The Declaration calls for enhancing European cooperation in VET across Europe. It focuses on the contribution of vocational education and training to the challenges identified in the Lisbon strategy:
- strengthen the European dimension of VET
- improve transparency, information and guidance systems
- recognise competences and qualifications -including non-formal and informal learning
- promote cooperation in quality assurance
Following Copenhagen, the Education Council reached political agreement on a number of concrete results, in particular:
- principles for the identification and validation of non-formal and informal learning,
- cooperation for the development of a shared framework for quality assurance in VET
- a single framework for the transparency of qualifications and competences – EUROPASS
- a resolution on guidance/counselling within a lifelong learning dimension
Second phase: Consolidation and further development of tools First follow-up of the Copenhagen Process: The Maastricht Communiqué
The first review of the Copenhagen process took place on December 2004 at a ministerial meeting in Maastricht, where it was acknowledged that substantial progress had been made. The Maastricht Communiqué set out priorities for the next phase of the Copenhagen process.
The Maastricht Communiqué, linked more firmly with the "Education and Training 2010" work programme, for the first time, introduced national priorities:
- Raise awareness, implement and use agreed instruments
- Improve public / private investment, including training incentives through tax and benefit systems and use of EU Funds
- Address the needs of groups at risk - low skilled, older workers, early school leavers, migrants, persons with disabilities, unemployed
- Develop open learning approaches and flexible more individualised pathways to enhance progression
- Strengthen planning of VET provision, including, partnerships and early identification of skills needs
- Develop pedagogical approaches and the learning environment in training organisations and at work
- Enhance competence development for VET teachers & trainers
At European level, priorities included the European Qualifications Framework (EQF) and the European credit transfer system for VET (ECVET). The other priorities were:
- Consolidate existing Copenhagen priorities
- Examine the specific learning needs of VET teachers and trainers
- Improve the scope, precision and reliability of VET statistics
EQF and ECVET - key tools towards EU cooperation in education and training:
- The purpose of the EQF is the creation of a European translation system for the level of qualifications and the education and training courses required for obtaining these qualifications. The core element of the EQF is the description of eight reference levels which show what learners of a certain level should know. Such a system contributes to increase mobility on the European labour market, between and within education and training systems. It improves the transparency and makes it easier for employers and education and training institutions to assess the competences acquired by citizens.
- The development and implementation of the European Credit Point System in vocational education and training (ECVET) support lifelong learning, the mobility of European learners and flexibility of leaning pathways to achieve qualifications by making easier for learners to build on achievements they have made during their education paths.
- The Maastricht Communiqué also emphasises the great importance of achieving high quality and innovation in vocational education and training systems.