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EU Youth Strategy: regions need resources and effective structures to offer a brighter future for young people

In times of crisis and high youth unemployment rates in a growing number of EU regions, stronger political cooperation between all levels of government and sufficient resources for regions are vital to deliver effective youth policies. This is the main message that came from a conference entitled “Think European – Act Local: the role of federal states and regions in the EU Youth Strategy” co-organised today by the Committee of the Regions (CoR) and the German National Agency for the “Youth in Action” EU Programme (JUGEND für Europa).

The conference, organised in cooperation with the German Federal Lands of Berlin, Brandenburg, Bremen, Saarland and Saxony-Anhalt, brought together representatives from the regional, national and EU level, as well as civil society, youth organisations and young people. The event considered the role of EU regions in influencing the framework and content of youth policy and youth work and enabled to exchange examples of good practice initiatives targeted at young people.

On the issue of youth participation in politics, participants argued that in order to engage with the European project, young people need more opportunities to be able to voice their views and opinions. This was echoed by Michael Schneider, President of the CoR EPP Group, Secretary of State and Delegate of the State of Saxony-Anhalt for the German Federation: "Regions in Europe are the engines that drive European youth policy forward and it is the young people in the regions who build the future of the EU. Our youth policy has to focus on Europe-wide programmes to fight youth unemployment. We must also make sure that the measures put in place are adapted to the local context as local and regional authorities can contribute significantly to the success of such programmes."

In the same vein, the First Minister of the Belgian German-speaking community and President of the PES group in the CoR, Karl-Heinz Lambertz, called for more political courage to create a comprehensive European youth policy: "The young are our future must not be an empty slogan, but must be underpinned by specific policies and investments. The fight against youth unemployment is one of the main challenges of European politics in the upcoming years. The introduction of the so-called 'Youth guarantee' is an important first step. Now the focus must be on ensuring that local and regional authorities have the capacity to implement these guarantees and creating clear perspectives for a more social Europe".

The conference also emphasised that youth policy is only effective when designed in a cross-sectorial way. Hans-Georg Wicke, Head of JUGEND für Europa, called for effective measures for political and civil society players at European and regional level to communicate Europe and strengthen the involvement of young people in policy-making. He underlined that the new Erasmus+ Youth in Action programme (2014–2020) would be available to support activities of the regions and their partners, in particular to strengthen youth participation through the so-called “Structured Dialogue”.

The perspective of young people was brought in by Johannes Bergunder, a young member of the “European Youth Competence Team” of GOEUROPE! Saxony-Anhalt. He presented the results of a survey conducted among European young people on what they worry about, what they want and what they expect from local and regional authorities' policy makers. The latter question triggered various responses, among which were the matters of improving education systems and mobility programmes, supporting new business ideas, creating jobs, ensuring that the political voice of young people is heard and better demonstrating the possibilities that Europe can offer. Mr Bergunder also stressed that young people generally tend to consider Europe in a positive light and are willing to actively be a part of it.

In this regards, the State Secretary at the Ministry for Education, Youth and Sport of Brandenburg, Burkhard Jungkamp, also expressed the views that young people are interested in politics and that they want to be active in society, but that they are more often committed to specific projects rather than willing to engage on a more longstanding basis. He insisted on the importance of peer-learning, and more specifically "European peer-learning" which falls within the EU Youth Strategy.

Background information:

The unemployment rate of young people (aged 15 to 24) rose sharply from 15% in February 2008 to an unprecedented 22.6 % in June 2012, an increase of 50 % in four years. Among those unemployed, more than 30% have been without a job for one year. At the same time, the share of young people at serious risk of social exclusion and poverty is higher than that of the general population. (source: 2012 EU Youth Report).

Adopted in 2009, the EU Youth Strategy for 2010-2018 has the overarching objective of creating more opportunities for young people in education and employment, and encouraging them to be active citizens and participate in society.

For more information, please contact:

Nathalie Vandelle                                   Ulrike Wisser
CoR Press Officer                             JUGEND für Europa
Tel. +32 2 282 24 99                          Tel: +49 173 7284783

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