THE NEW European commissioner for education, Viviane Reding promises to boost EU support for school exchanges abroad.
The Luxembourger also said she would maintain the European Commission's strict line on mutual recognition of teaching diplomas across the EU - at a time when Brussels is embarking on a legal battle against France over its restrictions on employing other EU teachers.
Mrs Reding's appointment was confirmed by the European Parliament last week. Addressing a special hearing of MEPs, she promised to use her powers to encourage student and teacher exchanges, exchange networks for training, and mutual recognition of diplomas to bring about a European "educational and cultural space".
She also suggested that the commission could help ease exchanges with schools outside the union, saying there should be "no geographical bar to the free movement of students."
There were few signs of opposition to her appointment at the parliamentary hearing in Strasbourg, where MEPs were clearly relieved by assurances that the 48-year old former Euro-MP and newspaper columnist was untainted by personal scandal and held no provocative views on education.
She also stressed that she would encourage the teaching of minority languages and local and regional cultures within Europe, saying there was "no dominant culture", and that the union's wealth was in its diversity.