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EUROPA is the portal site of the European Union (http://europa.eu.int/). It provides up-to-date coverage of European Union affairs and essential information on European integration. Users can also consult all legislation currently in force or under discussion, access the websites of each of the EU institutions and find out about the policies administered by the European Union under the powers devolved to it by the Treaties.

The European Union (EU) is a family of democratic European countries, committed to working together for peace and prosperity. It is not a State intended to replace existing states, but it is more than any other international organisation. The EU is, in fact, unique. Its Member States have set up common institutions to which they delegate some of their sovereignty so that decisions on specific matters of joint interest can be made democratically at European level.

The historical roots of the European Union lie in the Second World War. The idea of European integration was conceived to prevent such killing and destruction from ever happening again. It was first proposed by the French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman in a speech on 9 May 1950. This date, the "birthday" of what is now the EU, is celebrated annually as Europe Day.

The Lisbon strategy for economic, social and environmental renewal

The Lisbon Strategy is a commitment to bring about economic, social and environmental renewal in the EU. In March 2000, the European Council in Lisbon set out a ten-year strategy to make the EU the world's most dynamic and competitive economy. Under the strategy, a stronger economy will drive job creation alongside social and environmental policies that ensure sustainable development and social inclusion.

The Lisbon Strategy touches on almost all of the EU's economic, social and environmental activities. The European Commission's annual Spring Report examines the Strategy in detail. The Spring Report is the only document on the agenda of the Spring European Council, where EU Heads of State and Government assess the progress of the strategy and decide future priorities in order to realize the Lisbon targets.

Click here for key documents.

At the Lisbon European Council in March 2000, government leaders set the EU a 10-year mission to become the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world, capable of sustained economic growth with more and better jobs and greater social cohesion. Lifelong learning is a core element of this strategy, central not only to competitiveness and employability but also to social inclusion, active citizenship and personal development.

Following the adoption by the Commission on 21 November 2001 of the Communication on Making a European Area of Lifelong Learning a Reality lifelong learning has become the guiding principle for the development of education and training policy. The Communication sets out concrete proposals that aim to make lifelong learning a reality for all.

In June 2002, the Education Council adopted a Resolution on lifelong learning SpanishDanishDeutschGreekFrenchItalianDutchPortugueseFinnishSwedish supporting the implementation of the Commission Communication.

Lifelong learning encompasses learning for personal, civic and social purposes as well as for employment-related purposes. It takes place in a variety of environments in and outside the formal education and training systems. Lifelong learning implies raising investment in people and knowledge; promoting the acquisition of basic skills, including digital literacy; and broadening opportunities for innovative, more flexible forms of learning. The aim is to provide people of all ages with equal and open access to high-quality learning opportunities, and to a variety of learning experiences, throughout Europe. Education systems have a key role to play in making this vision a reality. Indeed, the Communication stresses the need for Member States to transform formal education and training systems in order to break down barriers between different forms of learning.

Under the authority of Commissioner Erkki Liikanen, the Information Society Directorate-General is playing a key role in implementing the 'vision' set by Europe's heads of state in Lisbon, 2000: "to make Europe the world's most competitive and dynamic economy, characterised by sustainable growth, more and better jobs and greater social cohesion, by 2010."

Instrumental to the promotion of the digital library research and development in Europe is the creation of the DELOS Network of Excellence on Digital Libraries.