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.

I just write to say that we have a really good president. Miss president, c u soon.
mireia sabartés, from barcelona, remembering coma-ruga.
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