Croatia’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union



Mariya Gabriel

Ms Mariya Gabriel is the European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth. She is responsible for important EU programmes such as Horizon Europe, Erasmus+, European Solidarity Corps and Creative Europe. She was Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society from 2017 to 2019. Under her leadership, the Digital Single Market has become a reality. She has created the first pan-European Digital Europe programme. She has been elected to the European Parliament in 2009, 2014 and 2019. Ms Gabriel is Vice-President of the European People’s Party, and since 2012 she has been Vice-President of EPP Women. She is one of the 50 most influential women in Europe in the field of cybersecurity. She has been awarded a number of prizes, among them the “Women of Influence 2018” award in the category “Talent in Politics”, the most prestigious Italian prize “Golden Apple” for the highest achievements for women, the Beaumarchais Medal for her contribution to protecting the interests of European artists. In 2019 the Honorary Committee of the USA – Central Europe Women in Business Summit presented her with an award for a series of initiatives to promote greater participation of women in the digital sector and the recognition of their role in developing the digital society and economy. Ms Gabriel holds a Master’s degree in Comparative Politics and International Relations from the Institute of Political Studies in Bordeaux. Between 2004 and 2008 she was a temporary teaching and research assistant at the Institute of Political Studies in Bordeaux. Her teaching focused in particular on the decision-making process of the European Union, political sociology and international relations.

Blaženka Divjak

Prof. Blaženka Divjak, PhD, is the Croatian Minister of Science and Education appointed in July 2017. She holds a PhD in Mathematics from the University of Zagreb and she is Full Professor with Tenure at the Faculty of Organization and Informatics, University of Zagreb (since 2015). She served as Vice-rector for students and study programmes at the University of Zagreb (2010-2014) and she was twice elected Vice-dean for scientific work and international cooperation in the period of 1999-2003 and 2007-2010 at the Faculty of Organization and Informatics, University of Zagreb. She also performed the duties of coordinator and researcher in various national and international projects and networks (including FP7, Tempus, Erasmus, IPA, Eureka, EUROLEARN networks, European Science Foundation). Her area of professional interest and expertise comprises e-learning, assessment of learning outcomes, quality culture in higher education, strategic decision making in higher education, popularisation of science, the Bologna process, social dimension of higher education etc. Prior to her current function, Minister Divjak served as president and a member of various university, national and international committees and councils in the area of education and science. She is the author of 8 books and over 80 scientific and expert papers in the area of mathematics, mathematics education, project management, higher education reform, learning outcomes, e-learning and science communication.

Andreas Schleicher

Andreas Schleicher is Director for Education and Skills at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). He initiated and oversees the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) and other international instruments that have created a global platform for policy-makers, researchers and educators across nations and cultures to innovate and transform educational policies and practices. He has worked for over 20 years with ministers and education leaders around the world to improve quality and equity in education. Former U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said that Schleicher “understands the global issues and challenges as well as or better than anyone I’ve met, and he tells me the truth” (The Atlantic, July 11). Former UK Secretary of State Michael Gove called Schleicher “the most important man in English education” – even though he is German and lives in France. Before joining the OECD, he was Director for Analysis at the International Association for Educational Achievement (IEA). He studied Physics in Germany and received a degree in Mathematics and Statistics in Australia. He is the recipient of numerous honours and awards, including the “Theodor Heuss” prize, awarded in the name of the first president of the Federal Republic of Germany for “exemplary democratic engagement”.  He holds an honorary Professorship at the University of Heidelberg.

Pasi Sahlberg

Mr Pasi Sahlberg is a Finnish educator and author who has worked as schoolteacher, teacher educator, researcher, and policy advisor in Finland and has studied education systems, analysed education policies, and advised education reforms around the world. He has written and spoken widely about teaching and learning in school, teachers’ work and education, educational change, international education issues, and the future of schools. His book “Finnish Lessons 2.0: What Can the World Learn from Educational Change in Finland” won the 2013 Grawemeyer Award for an idea that has potential to change the world. He is also a recipient of the 2012 Education Award in Finland, the 2014 Robert Owen Award in Scotland, the 2016 Lego Prize, and Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Resident Fellowship in 2017. He is a former senior education specialist at the World Bank, a lead education expert at the European Training Foundation, director general at Finland’s Ministry of Education, and a visiting Professor of Practice at Harvard University. He chairs the Open Society Foundations’ Education Board and is a member of the Governing Board of the University of Oulu and the International Council of Education Advisors (ICEA) for the Scottish Government. His recent books are “Hard Questions on Global Educational Change”, “Empowered Educators in Finland” and “FinnishED Leadership: Four Big, Inexpensive Ideas to Transform Education”. He is a professor of education policy at the Gonski Institute for Education, University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia.

Jean-Michel Blanquer

Jean-Michel Blanquer has been the French Minister of National Education and Youth since May 2017. From 2013 to 2017, he was director of ESSEC business school. Previously, he served as director-general for schools at the French Ministry of National Education,  and held several positions of responsibility in the French education system, including rector of the Guyana and Créteil education authorities.

He holds a doctorate in law from Panthéon-Assas University and an M.A. in politics from the Paris Institute of Political Studies (Sciences Po). He has been heavily involved in relations with Latin America, notably as president of the Institute of the Americas and director of the Institute of Latin American Studies at the New Sorbonne University.

Anne Ekström

Ms Anna Ekström is the Swedish Minister for Education since January 2019. Her current areas of responsibility include preschool, preschool class, out-of-school-centres, compulsory education, upper secondary school, adult education liberal adult education and UNESCO. Previously she was Minister for Upper Secondary School and Adult Education and Training (2016-2019). She has also served as Director-General at the National Agency for Education (2011-2016) and Chair of the Swedish Confederation of Professional Associations (2001-2011), the latter for which she was re-elected twice (2005 and 2009) as well as was awarded the honorary title of chevalier of the French Legion of Honour (la Légion d’honneur) for her international contributions. Before that she also served as State Secretary at the Ministry of Enterprise, Energy and Communications (1999-2001) as well as at the Ministry of Employment (1998-1999). Ms Ekström holds a Master of Laws from Stockholm University.

Václav Velčovský

Václav Velčovský studied Czech Language, Literature, and History at the Charles University in Prague (Master), Slavonic Studies at the University Leipzig, and Pedagogy at the Charles University in Prague (Ph.D.). Currently he is applying for habilitation (res. ass. prof.) in History at the J. E. Purkyně University in Ústí nad Labem. He is author of four monographs and dozens of scientific articles on Czech-German relations’ history, language policy and pedagogy. In parallel with his academic career, he is active in civil service. He worked at the Ministry of Interior, at the Office of the Government of the Czech Republic, and since 2015 at the Ministry of Education, Youth, and Sports. As vice-minister, he is in charge of the European Affairs and the European Structural and Investment Funds. He is fluent in English and German.

Themis Christophidou

Themis Christophidou is the Director-General for Education, Youth, Sport and Culture of the European Commission. She is a civil engineer with 34 years of experience both in private and in public sector management. After having worked in the private sector for 15 years, she joined the European Commission in 2001.  She held various positions in the Directorate-General for Regional and Urban Policy and then worked for four different Commissioners, including Danuta Huebner, first Commissioner from Poland. Between 2011 and 2018, Themis Christophidou was Head of Cabinet of Maria Damanaki, Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, and of Christos Stylianides, Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management.  In March 2018, she became Director-General for Education, Youth, Sport and Culture. Themis Christophidou is an alumna of the civil engineering faculty of the Metsovio Polytechnic University of Athens, specialised in transport infrastructure and urban transport. Born in Famagusta, Cyprus, she is trilingual Greek, French, English.

Lidija Kralj

Ms Lidija Kralj is Assistant Minister (Director General) for the Directorate for Support and Improvement of the Education System at the Croatian Ministry of Science and Education. She is the leader of the comprehensive curricular reform project “School for Life” for general education as well as of several policy reform EU funded projects.

Ms Kralj is a member of expert working groups for the development of the national Strategy for Education, Science and Technology, the curriculum for primary education, the cross-curricular topic on the use of ICT and the subject of Computer Science. She is Professor of Mathematics and Computer Science with 26 years of teaching experience, the author of Mathematics and Computer Science textbooks and digital learning resources. She has been an eTwinning ambassador and a project leader for national campaigns for a better Internet and better e-safety for pupils and youth.

Ana Tecilazić Goršić

Ms Ana Tecilazić Goršić is the Head of Sector for Development of Higher Education at the Ministry of Science and Education of the Republic of Croatia Her areas of expertise include higher education public policy, lifelong learning, employability of graduates, quality assurance, recognition of foreign educational and professional qualifications, performance-based funding of higher education, qualifications frameworks, validation of prior learning, including non-formal and informal learning, European affairs and internationalization of higher education. She takes part in developing strategies, public policies, legislation and development projects in the aforementioned areas. She has been a Croatian representative in numerous bodies, groups and networks at European level, such as the European Qualifications Framework Advisory Group, the European Commission’s Working Group on Modernization of Higher Education, as well as inthe Bologna Follow-up Group (BFUG) and the Bologna Implementation and Coordination Group. Moreover, she actively participates in the work of various bodies and groups at national level: she is a member of the National Group for Advancement of Social Dimension of Higher Education and a member of the National Council for Development of Human Potential as the coordinator of national sectoral councils. She has led the process of developing the Croatian Qualifications Framework (CROQF) at the Ministry of Science and Education and in particular she has been responsible for further development of the institutional framework and legislation related to CROQF and relevant policies, such as recognition and quality assurance.

Elvisa Sekulić

Elvisa Sekulić is a Mathematics teacher at the Zorka Sever Elementary School, Popovača, Croatia. Promoted to teacher mentor in January 2020, a member of the Working Group for Mathematics subject curriculum, and recipient of award given to the best teachers in 2019. She is the author of two eTwinning projects, one of which was awarded the National Quality Label. Engaged in promoting work with digital tools and the purposeful use of ICT in everyday teaching. She actively promotes the importance of technology in Mathematics methodology, and as a teacher of a STEM subject was a coordinator in the project of organizing teaching in the experimental program and the e-School project.

Päivi Nilivaara

Ms Päivi Nilivaara is an educational consultant in Finland specialized on curriculum development, pedagogy and teacher training. She supported the curriculum reform in Finland on national and local levels, and she has conducted hundreds of teacher training programs on the national level.She is also an internationally recognized expert in curriculum development and keynote speaker.  She has supported the curriculum reforms and conducted teacher training programs in, e.g. Croatia, South-Africa and Afghanistan.Päivi Nilivaara has extensive experience as a teacher and a principal in primary education and as an educational consultant both in the public and private sector.She has a Master’s Degree in Education from Tampere University as well as a Certificate in educational administration and a Professional supervision and coaching diploma.In addition to running her private educational consultancy company, Innoline Oy Päivi is working as a researcher in the Research Group for Education, Assessment and Learning REAL at Tampere University. Her research interests focus on transversal competences, in particular, learning to learn and thinking skills, future learning, and curriculum development which also are the field of her PhD research namely “What is worth learning in 2040?”

Hannah Grainger – Clemson

Dr Hannah Grainger Clemson works for the European Commission as Schools Policy Officer and the Co-ordinator of the ET2020 Working Group Schools. Having worked as a teacher, including mentoring new teachers, she then moved to university-based education research and teacher education, before working in policy development.

The latest work on “Supporting teacher and school leader careers” can be viewed in this policy guide and this video.

Lília Maria Vicente

Lília Vicente works as Team Coordinator for Interdisciplinary and Training Projects at Directorate-General for School Administration of the ME, where she assists the Director General in everything related to international organizations reports and project applications and represents the director-general in the European Network on Teacher Education Policies (ENTEP). She is the representative of the ME in the WG Schools of the EC for two mandates where she has given contribution to the discussions focusing on teacher and school leader careers, discussing and sharing ways to address the challengesthese areasraise, and to the documents produced. She is the national coordinator of the European Centre for Modern Languages of the CoE for the programme Supporting Multilingual Classrooms and a member of the team responsible for the training for school principals and directors of School Training Centres and teachers in the field of Induction Period, and certain areas of school management. She holds a Masters in Educational Sciences; and at the time she is a PhD student also in the field of Educational Sciences. She also holds a degree in Modern Languages and Literatures; a specialized course in Adult Education and Training; and a specialized course in Development Cooperation.

Katarina Grgec

Katarina Grgec is the Head of Sector for Development of Education at the Ministry of Science and Education of the Republic of Croatia. She is a teacher of English and German and for the last ten years she has been working at the Ministry.

She has been a member of working group on Schools at the European level for many years and representative of Croatia in various European bodies and groups dealing mostly with teachers and trainers. For many years she has been involved in development of vocational education and adult learning and now works mostly on development of general education which is at the moment concentrated at the comprehensive curricular reform. She has been involved in development of different policies and regulations as well as taking part in Erasmus+ and European Social Fund funded projects. During Croatian Presidency of the Councile of Europe she has organized and chaired meetings of Directors General for Vocational Education and Training and Directors General for Schools. She is also a Croatian representative in Advisory Committee for Vocational Training.

Irene Psifidou

A doctoral comparative education specialist by training, her current job as Expert at Cedefop’s department for learning and employability is to apply robust scientific research and principles in the development of evidence-based EU education and training policies. She is currently leading the Agency’s projects on the professional development of VET teachers and trainers and tackling early leaving from education and training, and she is coordinating the European virtual community of ambassadors. One of her milestones is the creation of Cedefop’s “VET toolkit for tackling early leaving”.

She has designed and managed high-profile EU projects on vocational education and training (VET), and she has been author of influential research and policy contributions in peer-reviewed journals/books on issues of contemporary policy interest: innovative and learner-centred pedagogies; curriculum and assessment reform; learning outcomes; key competences; inclusive education and training; and teachers’ training. She has represented Cedefop as keynote speaker at high-level international events in Europe, USA and Canada.

One of her main strengths is the considerable experience acquired in working in both European (Cedefop) and international policymaking environments (the World Bank, Washington DC).

Jari Erkki Antero Laukia

Jari Laukia is the director of Haaga-Helia University of applied sciences, School of Vocational teacher education in Helsinki. He made his PhD research about the history of vocational education in Finland. He has published several publications about the vocational education and teacher training. He is also a member of editorial board of Journal of Professional and Vocational education.  Jari has long and versatile teaching experience in vocational education and university of applied sciences. Jari worked also as a principal in a vocational college. He has been a member in several committees and work groups organised by the ministry of education and culture in Finland. He was for example a member in a committee, which was preparing teacher qualification requirements in Finland.  Haaga-Helia School of vocational teacher education educates teachers, special need teachers and study councillors for vocational education. In addition, it is organising in-service training for teachers already working as a teacher. School of vocational teacher education is also educating teachers abroad, especially South Africa and Latin American countries. During the last few years, Jari has worked to increase appreciation of vocational teacher education, developed teacher education in digitalisation and organised research activities in the area of vocational pedagogy.

Eleonora Schmid

After graduating from Vienna University, Eleonora worked as a teacher in vocational education and training (VET). In 1989, following a year in the UK as exchange teacher, she moved to the Austrian Ministry of Education but also continued teaching part-time.  In the Ministry she worked with VET teacher professional development and international cooperation in VET (incl. Council of Europe, OECD, UNEVOC, Cedefop, ETF). Seconded to Cedefop from 2000 to 2004, she reported on VET systems and developments. After a year back at the Austrian Ministry focusing on EU VET policy issues, she returned to Cedefop. For several years, together with her team, she was responsible for reporting on VET systems and policy, notably progress in countries’ joint priorities. Currently she works in the communications department and supports the deputy director on general VET-related issues.

Susan Flocken

Susan took on the post as ETUCE European Director in 2017 and has been working for ETUCE in Brussels since 2009. She has been involved in developing and advocating ETUCE policies across a range of areas, especially in the areas of equality, occupational health and safety and digitalisation and continues to engage in ETUCE policy advocacy work with government representatives, the European Commission, the Council of Europe and other international institutions. Susan encourages the implementation of the Resolutions and Work Programme adopted at the ETUCE Conference in December 2016.

 ETUCE represents 132 education trade unions, i.e.11 million teachers and other education employees at all levels of education in 50 countries of Europe. ETUCE is a Social Partner in education at EU level and a European Trade Union Federation within the European Trade Union Confederation. ETUCE is the European Region of Education International, the global federation of education trade unions.

Promoting a quality teaching profession ETUCE stands up for teachers’ rights, trade union and human rights based on meaningful social dialogue and is an advocator for publicly funded education and access to quality education for all. Susan Flocken engages in ETUCE policy advocacy work with government representatives as well as with European and international institutions across a range of areas: education and training post-2020; European Pillar of Social Rights, equality, social inclusion and democratic citizenship; digitalisation in education; economic governance, promotion of social dialogue and teachers’ working conditions.

Ann Vanden Bulcke

Ann Vanden Bulcke started working in Directorate General Education and Culture at the European Commission in October 2006 as programme country desk officer for the Comenius Programme and later for the Grundtvig Programme.

Since 2014, she is working in the Vocational Education and Training and Adult Learning unit in Directorate General Employment. Her working areas have been: the Education & Training 2020 Working Group on Teachers and Trainers in Work-based learning and follow-up of the study on Teachers & Trainers in Work-based Learning – Mapping of best practices. More recently she is charge of communication matters related to the European Alliance for Apprenticeships, the yearly “Excellence in VET” awards, youth related issues, early school leaving and migration.

Her educational background is French language teacher.

Nino Buić

Nino Buić, holds a University Degree from University of Zagreb, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences. He has a strong background of more than 14 years in the field of VET. Currently holds a position of an Assistant Director for EU Affairs, International Cooperation and Projects in Agency for VET and Adult Education in Croatia.

During his career he gained hands on experience related to the processes of reform and modernisation of VET System in Croatia and other European countries, organization of cooperation between social partners and VET, linking VET and Labour Market, Qualifications and NQF development, VET QA, etc. He has experience in monitoring and follow-up of EU policies and tools in the field of Education and Training (Education and Training 2020; EQF, ECVET, EQAVET, etc.). He was project manager of various EU and other donors funded projects in Croatia. He acted as a representative of Croatia in various bodies and networks, i.e. DGVT, ACVT, ECVET UG, EQAVET, etc.

He was author and co-author of a number of articles and publication published in Croatia and EU.

Vesna Anđelić

Vesna Andelic currently works as the Assistant Director for Vocational Education and Training Development in Agency for Vocational Education and Training and Adult Education (AVETAE), a national institution for planning, development, organization, implementation, study and improvement of VET and adult education system in Croatia. She attained a title of Master of Science in Electrical Engineering and Information Technology (graduate university study programme) during academic education at the University of Zagreb, Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Computing. She continued her professional education after faculty in the field of operating systems, computer networking and EU projects. Her area of interest is quality assurance in education and implementation digital solutions. Her fields of expertise and professional experience are vocational education and training policy, development of occupational standards, VET qualifications and curricula, European tools and instruments for VET. She applies her expertise in implementation of different European projects and activities directed towards development and improvement of VET system.

Michael Gaebel

Michael Gaebel joined the EUA (Europena University Association) in 2006, where he was first in charge of Global Dialogue and internationalisation, to become in 2009 Head and then later on the Director of the Higher Education Policy Unit. This unit focuses on issues related to higher education learning and teaching, including the Bologna Process, lifelong learning, e-learning and MOOCs, internationalisation and global dialogue.He worked for more than a decade in higher education cooperation and development in the Middle East, the former Soviet Union and Asia. From 2002 to 2006, he was the European Co-Director of the ASEAN-EU University Network Programme (AUNP) in Bangkok.

Gohar Hovhannisyan

Gohar Hovhannisyan is the Vice-President of the European Students’ Union. Her main focus is in the area of quality of higher education, with an emphasis given to quality assurance, learning and teaching and meaningful students’ participation in HE governance. She has extensive experience of student representation that started from the local level at the governing board of the Armenian State University of Economics and continued to National and European level. On the national level, she was leading the establishment of the national QA pool of student-experts and currently is developing the one existing at ESU. She is serving as the Executive Board member of EQAR, as well as representing ESU in the Advisory Group on Learning & Teaching of the Bologna Follow-up Group.

Terry Maguire

Dr Terry Maguire is an Irish educator and senior manager who is actively committed to how teaching and learning can transform individual lives. Having spent a number of years working in Higher Education in Scotland where she pioneered flexible and blended approaches to teaching and learning. Terry was appointed as the Head of lifelong Learning in Institute of Technology, Tallaght in 2006.  Since 2013, Terry has led the development of the National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education as an essential component of the national-level infrastructure for higher education in Ireland.

Ulf-Daniel Ehlers

Ulf is a learning innovation expert, founder of, serial entrepreneur, and Professor for Educational Management and Lifelong Learning at the Baden-Wurttemberg Cooperative State University in Karlsruhe in 2011. From 2011-2017 he held the position of Vicepresident at the same university and has been responsible for Quality and Academic Affairs. He held positions as Associate Professor of University Duisburg-Essen (Germany), Professor for Technology Enhanced Learning of University Augsburg (Germany) and Associate Professor of the Graduate School for Management and Technology of the University of Maryland University College (USA). Ulf has delivered   keynotes and been speaking  to audiences in more than 45 countries. He is author of more than 10 books and 150 scholarly articles with over 3000 academic citations. Ulf is a trained coach, facilitator and expert for mindful communication, and holds degrees in English Language, Social Sciences and Education Sciences from the University of Bielefeld, where he finished his Ph.D. with honors in the field of Technology Enhanced Learning in 2003. He was awarded his habilitation in 2008 from the University of Duisburg-Essen. His writings on Quality  in education are internationally awarded.

Kevin Hawkins

Kevin Hawkins has worked with adolescents and young people in various contexts for over 30 years – as teacher, school head, and social worker in the UK, Africa, and Europe.  He currently lives in Valencia, Spain and was previously in the Czech Republic where for 10 years he was Middle School Principal at the International School of Prague.  Kevin has taught mindfulness to students, teachers and parents since 2008.  In 2012 he co-founded MindWell, ( which supports educational communities around the world in developing wellbeing through mindfulness and social-
emotional learning.

Kevin is a Senior Trainer for the Mindfulnessin Schools Project (UK) and a facilitator of the evidence-based CARE program (Cultivating Awareness and Resilience in Educators).  He has also worked as a coach/mentor to school leaders and was lead consultant to the International Baccalaureate Organisation on SEL and mindfulness. Kevin is a regular speaker, writer and presenter on the topics of wellbeing, leadership, mindfulness and social and emotional learning in education.  His first book, Mindful Teacher, Mindful School:Improving wellbeing in teaching and learning, was published by SAGE in July 2017.  He is currently working on a second book, also for SAGE/Corwin with Amy Burke which will be published in early 2021.

Kevin Hawkins – MindWell Education:

For further information on the work of Kevin Hawkins in Mindfulness-Based Wellbeing and Awareness-Based Systems Change in Education, please contact him at and see Kevin’s Book, ‘Mindful Teacher, Mindful School – Improving Wellbeing in Teaching and Learning’  and website 

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