In its opinion on the New EU Youth Strategy and on the European Solidarity Corps programme, the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) underlines that greater local and regional outreach is needed to achieve genuine youth engagement in Europe. Local and regional authorities also argue that the European Solidarity Corps scheme will have greater added-value if the projects are matched with local community needs.
As part of the new EU Youth Strategy, the European Commission is proposing to strengthen the dialogue with young people and to channel their voices in EU's decision-making through the establishment of new EU Youth Coordinator. In an opinion drafted by Mayor of Morazzone Matteo Bianchi (IT/ECR), the CoR points out the need to integrate youth dimension into all relevant EU policies with strong involvement of local and regional entities, both public and private, as they are best placed to grasp the reality of social needs in their areas.
"Our aim must be to achieve a genuine youth engagement that reflects the diverse views existing in our cities and regions across Europe. This is why we need the structured Youth Dialogue to also include local and regional authorities. As the voice of Europe's cities and regions, the CoR is ready to help achieve this", underlines Mr Bianchi.
The European Solidarity Corps initiative, which was launched in 2016 and is now being established as a separate programme in the next long-term EU budget with a budget of €1.26 billion, provides opportunities for young people to volunteer or work in projects in their own country or abroad that benefit communities and people around Europe.
"The needs and demands of local communities should be an important quality criterion for identifying eligible projects for the European Solidarity Corps. It is necessary to ensure ongoing dialogue with organisations already working in the sector and with local and regional institutions active in the area of solidarity", Mr Bianchi stresses.
To make the European Solidarity Corps (ESC) more efficient and improve future job prospects of young volunteers, the CoR proposes that:
- Member States could use tax exemptions or relief initiatives as an incentive to support solidarity projects.
- In order to avoid insecure or unpaid forms of work, a clear distinction must be made between the voluntary and employment strands of the ESC.
- All participants should be granted an exclusive ESC certificate upon completion of an activity, describing the competences acquired.
- When granting quality labels for projects, value should be attached to the most original and effective volunteering activities (such as those conducted in cooperation and synergy with sports associations) that can spur young people to maintain lifelong solidarity-based commitments.
Bianchi's opinion will be adopted at the CoR plenary session on Wednesday 5 December.
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