Samstag, September 29, 2007



Currently I am at the joint commissions meeting in Limassol. It is one of the biggest youth forum meetings each year and it is really nice to be hosted by friends. Our member in Cyprus, the Cypriot youth council – do really everything to assure a pleasant stay, from choosing good facilities for the meeting, to introducing us to Cypriot culture with food, drinks and dances.
In addition it feels good to spend a weekend with so many Youth Forum activists, the laughing about Jaakkos imitation of British colonialists, AM trying to tell a story but MC never letting her finish, Sven making the best Jaakko parody I have ever seen, JB taking 33 hours of travel to get here. The best of all, is though, that all our discussions, our laughs and our plans for the future work are made under the Cypriot sun!

Dienstag, September 25, 2007


ode to brussels

Most of the people feel pity for me when I have to go to Brussels, because everyone assumes that Brussels is not likable. I myself did not really like it for a long time. But by now Brussels is associated for me with friends and nice places and exiting work. When I am in Brussels I always have the feeling the day is much longer then else where, the amount of meetings a pack in a day, the amount of people that I meet in offices, in the streets or in Bars is huge and I never have enough time for my friends (general strand of my life, also in Austria).
And Brussels is young and has a young nightlife and is full of youth or young culture. I like the area around Place St. Géry and I like café Belga. And this weekend, Brussels was even sunny, and people living in Brussels are so grateful about the weather once it is sunny that they are all happy and nice, well, almost all – this definitely does not count for taxi drivers (but this is another story all together).

Montag, September 24, 2007


multiple discrimination

I have spent the last 4 days in Brussels. Attending a series of meetings with MEPs, Institutions and Member organisation. Originally I went there though to attend the multiple discrimination seminar jointly organised by the Youth Forum alongside five other civil society platforms: the International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA-Europe); the European Older Peoples’ Platform (AGE); the European Network Against Racism (ENAR); the European Disability Forum (EDF) and the European Women’s Lobby (EWL).

Around 50 participants will be attended this seminar aimed at raising awareness on multiple discrimination and addressing its main effects on youth. The event advocated for the development, at EU level, of a legal framework recognising the additional harm that multiple discrimination implies for victims. EU anti-discrimination law has evolved to include protection, in varying degrees and scope, for six grounds of discrimination (race, religion and belief, gender, sexual orientation, disability and age), but in a manner that addresses the grounds in isolation.

I enjoyed the seminar very much, not only because it was a high level and interesting debate, but also because I was attending it together with friends!

Dienstag, September 18, 2007



I am sure you are all familiar with Asterix and Obelix. And I would like to use those two well known characters to illustrate the importance of European Youth Policy.
They both live in a village of ancient Gauls as they resist Roman occupation. They do so by means of a magic potion, brewed by their Druid, which gives the recipient superhuman strength. So there is Obelix - Obelix fell into a cauldron of magic potion as an infant, this gave him super-human strength for lifetime. He also has little interest in subjects of a formal education or intellectual pursuits, since sheer strength usually solves his problems.
Asterix on the other side is quite clever and smart, but he does not have super-human strength. Asterix would have been lost - if there was not the magic potion that he is provided with on a regular basis.
They both face many obstacles in life, mainly Romans and big stones – Menhirs, but the Magic Potion helps them to deal with those hurdles.
Youth Policy in Europe needs to assure that not only those who happen to fall into a cattle full of magic potion get opportunities, but also those who are not blessed with superhuman strength.

Many young people are trapped in cycles of marginalisation and exclusion.
To break such enduring cycles of adversity, urgent action is needed, allowing every person to realise his or her aspirations and potential and fulfil their life project. Such action implies the genuine extension of opportunities to the most marginalised in society, to enable them to exercise the power that the rest of society takes for granted – giving them access to the magic potion; for youth organisations, this means reaching out to oppressed youth and making sure they are provided the space to speak for themselves, are listened to, and are heard by decision makers. This means for policy makers - saying it in the words of the Romans - Qui habet aures audiendi audiat: He who has ears, let him understand how to listen.

The European Youth Forum believes in the right of everyone to participate in society as an active citizen and to have their Human Rights guaranteed, we must start with ourselves and continuously enhance the inclusiveness of youth organisations by involving, today, marginalised and disadvantaged young people. The commission communication “promoting young people’s full participation in education, employment and society” unfortunately fails to address the needs of rural youth and young LGBT people.

Providing opportunities, and providing access to opportunities is much more than charity and clearly also goes beyond magic potions – it implies structural support and a political process of becoming organised to work for collective interests and social change: the improvement and extension of civil rights didn’t happen by chance, but through continuous struggle.

The structured dialogue must be esemplastic and have the ability to mould diverse elements or concepts into a unified whole. The declaration, which is foreseen to be signed by the European Institutions and young people could be the first step to unify our efforts and mark the next step on our way to a genuine structured dialogue.

In this respect the Portuguese presidency youth event is a cornerstone – with a clearly defined profile of participants and a transparent selection mechanism, with a focused set of objectives and with clear roles of all partners involved. Which clearly also increases the responsibility of the youth organisations attending this event. All in all it is an awesome and kick-ass event.

A one-size-fits-all approach lets down the most vulnerable and hard to reach – therefore youth organisations have developed a variety of actions and measures to widen and deepen the participation of young people in democratic life, regardless of their socio-economic or cultural background. Young people in Europe have to be seen as equal citizens in society, promoted to not only participate, but to lead the way in issues affecting their lives and those they seek to represent. The lowering of the voting age is the foundation for improving Europe’s democracies.

1997 the European Employment strategy set the objective to make sure that every young person will get a job or further training within 6 month of seeking for a job. Today 10 years later we have 4.6 Millions of unemployed young people and the unemployment rate of young people is twice as high as the % of prime age adults. It is more then high time to change those figures. The Commission Communication is a first step to improve the situation by acknowledging the multifaceted problems concerning employment policy and by addressing it in a cross sector manner.

The numbers of early school leavers are still very high and leaving the formal education system without a degree increases the chances to live a whole life in precarious work conditions if having a job at all. Exactly because of this we need to ensure multiple entrances and re-entrance pathways for young people back to formal education that also recognise skills and competences gained in non-formal settings. It is irresponsible to fall short in supporting the most vulnerable when it comes to the acknowledgement of their learning achievements. It is sad to see that the Commission so far did not include our suggestions to guarantee that the overarching European Qualification Framework will also recognise non-formal education achievements– equally important the national Qualification Frameworks includes non-formal education achievements.

Volunteers gain many competences through their engagement in non-formal settings. This engagement should be facilitated and we need to make sure that no volunteer faces obstacles to his or her civic engagement. A charter for volunteers would be an essential sign to underline the value of the work of thousands of young European volunteers. Protecting our volunteers is an investment in community development. Volunteers must neither be a substitute for paid employment nor a synonym for alternative civic services replacing militia army.

Every volunteer must have the means to be in a safe environment and to be recognised and the European Union must lead the way to assure this in its member states. Volunteers are not paid, but that does not mean that they are worthless, they are priceless.

Volunteers often lack legal status, they are not students, they are not unemployed, they fall between the chairs and need a legal status that is supporting their work and protecting them. Investing in volunteers is a long-term investment in active citizenship and democracy, national strategies for volunteers need to make sure volunteers are recognised and legal as well as other obstacles will be removed.

We are very happy to see that the Communication encourages Member States to use national policies and EU funds, in particular the European Social Fund, the European Regional Development Fund, the Cohesion Fund and the Rural Development Fund for supporting young people's transition from education to employment and reducing regional disparities in this respect.

A coherent approach for the implementation of the Youth Pact is only possible if the aims of the youth pact are also reflected in the revision of the Lisbon integrated Guidelines for growth and jobs and all community programmes should support its implementation.

It will be crucial to establish a High level group on youth employment as an advisory body to the commission similar to the high level group on the integration of ethnic minorities into the labour market – with experts from politics, academia and civil society.

Being called the generation internship it is indispensable for us to develop the European quality charter for internships. There is an unacceptable high number of Internships with no pay and hardly any educational value, such exploitations must be avoided and member states must ensure that internships are properly defined.

As the European youth forum we welcome the communication “promoting young people’s full participation in education, employment and society” from the European Commission. This communication is definitely a big step in the right direction to cross-sector youth policy and youth policy mainstreaming. Now we need the tools to coordinate such a strategy. The coordination of such a strategy should be at a central level of the European commission such as the Secretariat General, which is linked to the president of the commission. But evenly important is that the member states realise that sustainable changes can only be achieved if also the national youth policies are truly transversal and cross sectoral.

There are several issues that are of existential importance to young people but that are only superficially addressed in the communication such as sustainable development, global cooperation or environmental issues.

Similarly it is important to involve young people more in health policies – unfortunately not only Obelix has obesity problems. The social dimension of health must be more explicitly addressed and creating tailored actions to promote healthy lifestyles are integral. And in general the inclusion of young people in the upcoming development of the EU health strategy and in the EU mental health strategy is indispensable.

In conclusion it is needed to
-Establish an effective coordination mechanism within the European commission to mainstream young people’s needs into all relevant policy areas
-Address the situation of young people in the labour market through concrete and tangible initiatives
-Develop volunteering policy that meets the needs of civil society organisations, providing opportunities for young people to volunteer
-Foster youth participation especially in the fields of health, sustainable development and culture

Not all young people are kangaroos that can happily jump over all obstacles. There is a need to get some magic potion to get rid of all the Menhirs stones lying all around.

And to say it once more with the words of the Romans -Nunc est bibendum: Now it is time to drink – cheers.


muffin women

Sonntag, September 16, 2007


Opening Lisbon EU-Presidency Youth Event

One in six young EU Europeans still leaves school early and 4.6 million 15-24 year-olds are unemployed - twice the overall EU unemployment rate. Young people face more then ever complicated transitions from education to work, from childhood to adulthood. Through this youth event we as youth organisations will try to improve the situation for young people in Europe –through our own commitment and through recommendations to other policy makers.

We will have 6 workshops this week and one overall theme: volunteering
The Role of youth in the European construction - Very few political issues get much airtime in the lives of European teens and twentysomethings; in this first working group many issues that do appear on the radar of many teens and twentysomethings – mobility, global cooperation and intercultural learning.

Employment and Entrepreneurship – right now at the time of the revision of Lisbon employment guidelines, and when cross-sectoral approach to youth policy is taken serious thought the commission communication that will be presented to us tomorrow; this is a topic very high on the agenda.

Social inclusion and Equal Opportunities for all - It is unfortunately the case that many people seem to be stuck in a lifetime of disadvantage; the problems they face are multiple, entrenched and often passed down across generations. Urgent and multi layered action is needed to break this vicious circle.

Youth participation and structured Dialogue - Though it may seem subversive, the mobilisation of youth leading to widespread support for social change has been essential to politics. The European Youth Forum is convinced that youth organisations are key to the continuous democratisation of societies. Democracy is, for us, much more than a specific institutional structure with decisions based on majority - democratisation is a process that empowers people and includes them in society.

Non-formal education – learning is happening more and more outside of schools but so far our formal systems fail to recognise all the competences that people gain in non-formal settings this is short-sighted and harming the development opportunities of each and everyone of us and therefore of the society as a whole.

All of the mentioned working group themes have something in common - Volunteering- There are many reasons why people are volunteers; Altruism, Quality of life, giving back, sense of duty, Religious conviction or idealistic aims of social progress – but all of them are about compassion and an immediate contribution to justice. And yes, volunteers are not paid - not because they are worthless, but because they are priceless. Its volunteers who carry the “Idea Europe” – therefore a clear vision on how to genuinely promote youth volunteering is needed. For volunteering its true that one snowflake alone will melt very fast, but many together will stop the traffic. But maybe snowflakes are not something we should think of whilst being in Lisbon.

This youth event must be understood as a component of the general culture of youth participation, reflective of a system of good governance, and not, rather, as a one-off, symbolic action, it is an event embedded in the structural dialogue. But this also means that you are responsible to represent your organisation and follow up on the conclusions on this event, not only within your organisation but also by holding decision makers accountable to live up to their promises.
The themes of this Youth Event are evidently then, not simple ones; but by examining them, we hope to demonstrate a genuine belief that social exclusion is neither inevitable nor insurmountable, that together we can find political solutions for political problems - and that youth organisations play a vital role when doing so. As you will find, our common efforts to broaden opportunities, from the local level up to the international, imbue every single day of our youth event in Lisbon. Enjoy it to the fullest.

Donnerstag, September 13, 2007


social pressure

I have been in Coma-Ruga for the last couple of days. We had the annual YFJ Press and Communications officers meeting there. I missed the one and only ufficia stampa, but other then that it was a surprisingly good meeting and we all welcomed A. The downside is that we discussed mainly communication technologies and different tools like wiki, blog, pod cast- you name them – and how they can be used for youth organisations; so now I feel almost obliged to enter much more regularly updates on this blog. Lets see if the people will all actively contribute to our new Coma-Ruga facebook group and start blogging now. In my defence for the absence in the last month – I spent so much time on facebook (I hereby admit that it still is my favourite waist of time) – that I did not take the time for blogging. Today I am in Madrid and meeting friends for an evening – and that is good.

Mittwoch, September 12, 2007


i never miss the mountains

I have been on the train lately a lot: from Rome to Bressanone, from Bressanone via Innsbruck to Salzburg, from Salzburg to Ljubljana. So this is a lot of mountain for only a few days the Dolomites, Karawanken and other impressive parts of the Alps.
And last but not least Hohe Tauern National Park, covering an area of 1800 square km belongs to the most magnificent highland landscapes I have ever seen. On the 5th of September this year it was snowing down to 1000m in Austria. So when I passed the Brennero Pass by train that day it was actually snowing and I formed my first snowball. The day after, when I drove through the Tauern, I could see dark green alpine plateaus and just a few meters above the snowy rocks. It really made me appreciate the nature of the alps and put me in a quite romantic feeling. In addition the youth and social workers conference I attended in the north of Italy was quite inspiring, most people were not from youth NGOs but from other youth services or social services and it allowed an quite interesting exchange of views and experiences.


i see fish

I always thought people who snorkel are a bit weird. I mean, what should be better with a tube and goggles? One would just look stupid. When I was in Sharm el Sheikh the first days of September I was persuaded to snorkel and it was mind blowing. I never thought that it would be so wonderful, cause – I have been to aquariums and I have seen colourful things before, what should be so amazing about it. But the colours, the peace, the amount of fish, the closeness, the size, and the sun that sends its rays. It was just amazingly beautiful and so surprisingly … well, simply mind blowing. So all I can say is, go and snorkel – if possible in the red sea! Ah and by the way, just for the record, I have been in Sharm for a conference of the Suzanne Mubarak Women’s International Peace Movement, I got up at 5:45 am in the morning to see the sunrise just passed 6am, I did snorkel till 8 to be able to watch the fish have breakfast and I was on time at 9 in the conference. And it was more then worth it. I am happy A. persuaded me to do it. Thanks.


summer update I

We have been discussing about blogs a lot during the YFJ press and communications officers meeting. And I had to admit several times that I did not update my blog in the last month!!! This did not happen in the last 3 years. So – bea – this one ‘s for you!
I had a quite exiting summer. I have been to the General Assembly of the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA). This general assembly was an assembly of superlatives. They had over 900 delegates and inhabited a whole campus in Canterbury in the lovely county Kent. I was well impressed by the amount of people, the meeting structure and the broad range of issue a Medical Students Association is covering - the topic of the meeting was access to essential medicines.
I have also been at the 100th anniversary of scouting at the Jamboree of the World Organisation of the Scout Movement (WOSM). Also impressive and moving because more then 40 000 young people were at the event, despite the fact that the participation fee was not cheap all of them wanted to celebrate a centenary of scouting together. What impressed me as well was the logistics of such a huge event. May I add here – don’t mess with someone from Essex, Essex people rock.
I also participated at the 100 years anniversary celebrations of the International Union of Socialist Youth (IUSY). The celebrations were very different from the WOSM celebration, not only because of the different nature of the organisation but also because of the different age range present in Berlin. A lot of politicians who are IUSY veterans joined the meeting and it felt like a big class reunion.The topic of the meeting was peace and democracy.

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