The Benelux and the Baltic States advocate for the extension of the Treaty on Automatic Recognition of Higher Education Diplomas

  • 2024-05-13

Experts in higher education from the Benelux countries and the Baltic States (Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania) are meeting today in Brussels to celebrate the entry into force of the Treaty on mutual automatic recognition of levels of higher education diplomas. At the same time, the participants seize the opportunity to invite other countries from the European higher education area to join the treaty. Among those present are the minister of education from Flanders Ben Weyts, the deputy minister of education Agnė Kudarauskienė (Lithuania), the parliamentary secretary Silvija Reinberga (Latvia) and the director of international policy at the Ministry of Education, Culture, and Science, Gerbert Kunst (Netherlands).

The idea for the current diploma recognition treaty originated in 2019. The Benelux countries had begun, as early as 2015, to automatically recognize certain diplomas, and the Baltic States had established a similar system. Both regions deemed it wise to extend the system to all six countries. The treaty entered into force on May 1, 2024.

In concrete terms, the treaty guarantees that anyone who obtains a higher education diploma covered by the treaty in one of the Benelux countries or the Baltic States is assured that the level of their diploma is automatically recognized in the other signatory countries. In practice, graduates will no longer face lengthy and costly recognition procedures regarding the level of their diploma.

The Benelux and the Baltic States thus encourage other member states of the European higher education area to join this initiative in order to create an inclusive European higher education space where talent and knowledge can freely circulate.

Ben Weyts, the Flemish Minister of Education: "I hope that other countries or regions will join this treaty in the future. We will always ensure the quality of diplomas, but we want to give more substance to the European Higher Education Area - which still remains too much of a dead letter. This agreement with the Baltic States is an important cornerstone. Flanders has an open economy and an open view of the world."

Françoise Bertieaux, Minister of Higher Education in the French Community: "This automatic recognition treaty is a major breakthrough for student mobility between the signatory countries, facilitating the search for employment for our young people. It embodies the mutual trust that has developed between our countries through the implementation of the Bologna tools. We must acknowledge that we are real pioneers in this regard at the European Union level. I am pleased that we can invite other member states to join the Benelux and the Baltic States in this innovative initiative."

Lydia Klinkenberg, Minister of Education, Training and Research in the German-speaking Community of Belgium: “I see a significant added value in this, also for the residents of the German-speaking Community of Belgium. As we live in a border region, there is inevitably a lot of cross-border mobility in the labor market and education. Thanks to this agreement, holders of academic titles will no longer have to undergo lengthy recognition procedures, administrative obstacles, and high costs.”

Robbert Dijkgraaf, the Dutch Minister of Education: "Today, with six European countries, we are taking an important step towards fair, mutual, and automatic recognition of diplomas in higher education. We warmly invite other European countries to join us, thus making automatic recognition possible throughout Europe. In this way, we strengthen the quality of European higher education and can better compete with the rest of the world.”

"For Luxembourg, as a small multilingual and multicultural country, student and youth mobility in general is of particular importance and constitutes an intrinsic characteristic, not only of our higher education landscape, but of our national identity. In this sense, the signing of this Treaty is an important step forward for us, especially because it allows us to contribute to the development of the European higher education space, and I hope that other European countries will follow us on this path," says Stéphanie Obertin, Minister of Research and Higher Education of Luxembourg.

Kristina Kallas, Minister of Education and Research of Estonia:” This treaty signifies a paradigm shift in how we approach international educational mobility. By turning automatic recognition into reality we are not only advancing the principles of fairness and transparency but are also laying the foundation for a more integrated and dynamic higher education community. Estonia stands proud alongside its Baltic and Benelux partners, hoping to see even more countries to join us, stepping into a future where educational opportunities know no borders.”

"International education has become a necessity, opening up new academic and professional perspectives while fostering competitiveness. Currently, the Baltic and Benelux countries are the only regions where automatic recognition of higher education qualifications is officially established. This multilateral agreement is one of the milestones and future investments that will strengthen the European Higher Education’s Area in the long term, thus creating a simpler and more efficient system with a set of unified criteria for the parties involved," expresses Minister of Education and Science of Latvia, Anda Čakša.

Agnė Kudarauskienė, deputy Minister of Education, Science and Sport of Lithuania: “Amidst the ever-evolving landscape of the EU economy, the demand for pertinent knowledge and skills continues to grow. To ensure seamless study and employment opportunities across Europe, it is imperative to devise measures that bolster transparency and recognition of academic qualifications. This necessity underscores the significance of initiatives like the Benelux-Baltic treaty on automatic recognition of higher education qualifications, which not only streamlines processes but also fosters trust among Member States. In the face of the current geopolitical challenges, such agreements not only demonstrate a commitment to shared values but also serve as a beacon of solidarity, reaffirming the collective resolve to navigate uncertainties together.”

Frans Weekers, Secretary General of the Benelux, emphasizes the importance of cooperation: "The desire to expand this initiative to other member states of the European higher education area is a major step forward in our joint efforts to strengthen this space. This will not only facilitate student mobility but also improve access to education and the labor market." He adds that the Benelux thus confirms its role as a pioneer within the EU, as this is a project that can be applied on a European scale.