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ISSUE 60 page 4

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Ageing teachers set problem for EU
  THE ORGANISATION FOR ECONOMIC CO-OPERATION AND DEVELOPMENT (OECD) has released a report which throws light on many aspects of education in the European Union. The figures from the worldwide organisation compare 21 Member States with countries further afield such as the U.S.A. and Japan. They highlight, among a wealth of information, the advanced age of the teaching workforce in many EU states; in seven more than 40% of secondary school teachers are over 50 while in Germany and Italy more than half are in this category. Total education spending per student was slightly below average in the surveyed EU countries compared with all OECD members. Nonetheless the EU is the favourite destination for students studying outside their home country with 41% of all foreign scholars hosted in the Community.




Eastern Europeans postpone euro accession but Baltics are still big fans

THE TRAVAILS OF THE EURO ARE ON THE FRONT PAGES on most mornings at present so perhaps it’s no surprise that the countries that joined the EU in 2004 and 2007 are trying to row back from the obligation to join the single currency that they signed up to then. More unexpected are the attitudes of the governments of Member States such as Latvia and Lithuania who are still determined to swap their own money for the euro as soon as they meet the criteria. Bulgaria, the Czech Republic and Poland have all signalled that they will delay entry with Bulgarian finance minister Simeon Djankov blaming the debt crisis, double-dip recession and public opposition: ‘Right now, I don't see any benefits of entering the euro zone, only costs’ he said. His country already fulfils all the conditions for joining having an annual budget deficit of 2.1% and boasting an enviable debt level of 17.5% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Similarly Poland, whose economy  has experienced no recession during the crisis and is still motoring along at nearly 3% growth per year has shelved its plans for entry, ‘We are ready to join when you have resolved your problems and when we can say to our people “We can now safely join”' vowed foreign minister Radek Sikorski.
However over in the Baltic states there are still enthusiasts for the European currency. At a recent NATO conference in the Latvian capital of Riga there was a ‘virtual fanfare for the euro’ according to reports. The Prime Minister of Estonia, which signed up in January 2011, predicted that its steadily growing GDP would be in the EU top 5 per person by 2022 while his Latvian counterpart Valdis Dombrovskis planned for his country to meet all the requirements for entry by the end of this year and would swap the lats for the euro in January 2014. He may still have a problem with public opinion though as 59% of respondents in a recent poll declared themselves opposed.

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