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The Copenhagen process: enhanced European cooperation in vocational education and training

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The Copenhagen process: enhanced European cooperation in vocational education and training

Launched in 2002, the Copenhagen process aims to improve the performance, quality and attractiveness of vocational education and training (VET) through enhanced cooperation at European level. The process is based on mutually agreed priorities that are reviewed periodically.


Declaration of the European Ministers of Vocational Education and Training, and the European Commission, convened in Copenhagen on 29 and 30 November 2002, on enhanced European cooperation in vocational education and training – “The Copenhagen Declaration” [Not published in the Official Journal].


The Copenhagen Declaration set the priorities of the Copenhagen process on enhanced European cooperation in vocational education and training (VET). This process aims to improve the performance, quality and attractiveness of VET in Europe. It seeks to encourage the use of the various vocational training opportunities within the lifelong learning (LLL) context and with the help of the LLL tools.

The Copenhagen process consists of:

  • a political dimension, aiming to establish common European objectives and reform national VET systems;
  • the development of common European frameworks and tools that increase the transparency and quality of competences and qualifications and facilitate mobility;
  • cooperation to foster mutual learning at European level and to involve all relevant stakeholders at national level.

The priorities set by the Copenhagen Declaration provide the basis for voluntary cooperation in VET. With the target of 2010, they aim at:

  • reinforcing the European dimension in VET;
  • increasing information, guidance and counselling on, as well as the transparency of, VET;
  • developing tools for the mutual recognition and validation of competences and qualifications;
  • improving quality assurance in VET.

Maastricht Communiqué of 14 December 2004 on the future priorities of enhanced European cooperation in VET

The Maastricht Communiqué confirms the success of the Copenhagen process in raising the visibility and profile of VET at the European level. At the same time, it develops the priorities set by the Copenhagen Declaration. In addition, and for the first time, specific priorities for national level work on VET are provided:

  • application of common instruments and references in reforming and developing VET systems and practices;
  • increasing public/private investment in VET;
  • drawing support from European funds (such as social and regional development) to develop VET;
  • development of VET systems to cater for the needs of disadvantaged people and groups;
  • establishment of open learning approaches as well as flexible and open VET frameworks to enable mobility between different educational levels and contexts;
  • improving the relevance and quality of VET in collaboration with all relevant stakeholders;
  • development of learning-conducive environments both in educational institutions and in the workplace;
  • promotion of VET teachers’ and trainers’ continuous competence development.

Helsinki Communiqué of 5 December 2006 on enhanced European cooperation in vocational education and training

The Helsinki Communiqué evaluates the Copenhagen process, as well as reviews its priorities and strategies. Since the adoption of the Maastricht Communiqué, progress has been achieved on the common European frameworks and tools for VET. The EUROPASS single framework for the transparency of qualifications and competencies was adopted and work is underway on the European Qualifications Framework, the European Credit System for VET (ECVET) and the European Quality Assurance Reference Framework for VET. Strengthened action is now needed on the following priorities:

  • improving the image, status, attractiveness and quality of VET;
  • developing, testing and implementing common European tools for VET, so that they will be in place by 2010;
  • taking a systematic approach to strengthening mutual learning and cooperation, in particular with the use of consistent and comparable data and indicators;
  • involving all stakeholders in the implementation of the Copenhagen process.

Bordeaux Communiqué of 26 November 2008 on enhanced European cooperation in vocational education and training

The Bordeaux Communiqué reviews the priorities and strategies of the Copenhagen process in light of a future education and training programme post-2010. The process has proved to be effective in promoting the image of VET, while maintaining the diversity of national VET systems. Nevertheless, new impetus is needed, in particular regarding the:

  • implementation of VET tools and schemes to promote cooperation at the European and national levels;
  • further improvement of the quality of VET systems and promotion of the attractiveness of VET to all target groups;
  • creation of better links between VET and the labour market;
  • consolidation of European cooperation arrangements.

Bruges Communiqué of 7 December 2010 on enhanced European cooperation in vocational education and training for the period 2011-20

The Bruges Communiqué provides long-term strategic objectives for European cooperation in VET for the period 2011-20. These objectives draw from past achievements and aim to respond to current and future challenges, while taking into account the underlying principles of the Copenhagen process.

The Copenhagen process has significantly helped raise awareness of VET at the European and national levels, in particular through the implementation of the common European VET tools, principles and guidelines. It has triggered profound reforms which have lead to a shift to a learning outcomes approach. Nevertheless, there is a need to improve communication in order to better involve all relevant stakeholders, as well as to better link VET to other policies in order to address socio-economic challenges and make mobility and LLL a reality.

For VET to respond to current and future challenges, European education and training systems must:

  • be flexible and of high quality;
  • adapt to labour market evolutions and understand emerging sectors and skills;
  • ensure the provision of tailored and easily accessible continuing training;
  • ensure the sustainability and excellence of VET through a common approach to quality assurance;
  • empower people to adapt to and manage change by enabling them to acquire key competences;
  • be inclusive;
  • facilitate and encourage VET learners’ and teachers’ transnational mobility;
  • secure sustainable funding for VET and ensure the efficient and equitable use of this funding.

The Copenhagen process forms an integral part of the “Education and Training 2020” (ET2020) strategic framework and will contribute to achieving the education-related targets of the Europe 2020 strategy. With these in mind, the global vision for VET calls for European VET systems that are more attractive, inclusive, relevant, accessible, career-oriented, flexible and innovative by 2020. Based on this vision, the 11 long-term strategic objectives for European cooperation in VET for the period 2011-20, together with the 22 short-term deliverables for the period 2011-14 that provide concrete actions at national level for achieving the strategic objectives, call in particular for:

  • the strengthening of the quality and efficiency as well as the attractiveness and relevance of VET;
  • the realisation of LLL and mobility;
  • the development of creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship;
  • the promotion of equity, social cohesion and active citizenship.


The Lisbon European Council of March 2000 recognised the importance of developing high quality VET to promote social inclusion, cohesion, mobility, employability and competitiveness.

The Barcelona European Council of March 2002 called for the creation of a process specific to VET, which would contribute to making European education and training systems a world quality reference by 2010. As a result, the Council adopted in November 2002 a resolution on enhanced cooperation in VET.

See also

The European Commission Directorate-General for Education and Culture websites:

Last updated: 08.04.2011