The Treaty on the European Union, signed in Maastricht by foreign and fi nance ministers of Member States in 1992, contains a number of provisions on education based upon the principle of non-interference in the content and organization of the Member States’ education and training systems. In Article 126 of the Treaty, the European Union’s sphere of action in this policy area is restricted to “contribute to the development of quality education by encouraging co-operation between Member States and, if necessary, by supporting and supplementing their action” (Paragraph 1). This legal basis continues to prevent the European Union (EU) from a more direct intervention in national education systems. Until 2000, the EU’s educational work was very much focused on the development of higher educational programs under the SOCRATES framework, of which the ERASMUS student mobility program is the best known (Keeling 2006). However, in March 2000, the European Commission secured support to expand its involvement in educational issues as the Heads of States agreed on an overall strategy in the Lisbon European Council meeting (henceforth, the Lisbon Agenda) for the following ten years aimed at achieving the new goal of the EU: “(T)o become the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world, capable of sustainable economic growth with more and better jobs and greater social cohesion” (European Council 2000: Paragraph 5). According to the Lisbon Agenda, “Europe’s education and training systems need to adapt both to the demands of the knowledge society and to the need for an improved level and quality of employment” (Paragraph 25). Based on this conclusion, EU-level common action, in order to modernize the education systems of the Member States, was regarded as a key priority. Therefore, the European Council, at its Stockholm meeting in 2001, adopted concrete objectives for education systems and, in 2002, approved a work program on the follow-up of these objectives, which was understood to be a means to the development of a coherent and comprehensive strategy in education and training (European

Commission 2002a: 6). The work program determines that the organization of follow-up activities is to be done according to the Open Method of Co-ordination (OMC) predicaments.