At a time when in many EU countries large numbers of teachers are close to retirement, Europe must focus on attracting high quality teachers in order to achieve the Lisbon objectives, says Jan Figel, EU Commissioner for Education, Training, Culture and Multilingualism. Speaking at an ETUCE (European Trade Union Committee for Education) hearing entitled 'Europe needs teachers', Mr Figel called for a greater focus on skills and training within Europe. 'Human resources are the main assets that the European Union has. As such, we need to make sure that our teachers are able - and willing - to meet challenges of the new knowledge society. Therefore, we need to invest in our teachers. They need to be confident in their abilities. They need to be motivated,' said Mr Figel. According to the Commissioner, the knowledge-based economy requires the creation of new knowledge through research and development (R&D) and it requires that such knowledge is applied to everyday life through technology and innovation. 'Therefore, there needs to be a greater focus on skills and training within Europe. And this focus needs to be sustained through time. Our policies should not only be short-term ones or be a one-off campaign' added Mr Figel, pointing out that one million teachers will have to be recruited over the period 2000 to 2015. Furthermore, as society changes, expectations placed on teachers continue to grow. To be met, consistent learning strategies for teachers need to be put in place, believes Mr Figel. 'Knowledge based societies cannot be built without promoting the knowledge itself and putting it into the centre of our reforms. Commission policies and programmes are aimed at supporting the knowledge. Discussions on the Financial Perspectives will, hopefully, lead to the agreement on the increase of spending on EU programmes in the area of education. We should regard spending on education rather as investment since human resources are the most valuable potential we have,' concluded Mr Figel.