On February 17, the European Parliament’s CULT Committee held an exchange of views on the mid-term assessment of the EU Youth Strategy.
Sylvia Costa (S&D, IT), Chair of the CULT committee, explained that the Youth Strategy had to be assessed in three years after its last assessment in 2013. The rapporteur and shadows are open to consultation, she said, and then reminded of their responsibility to assist young people.
Rapporteur Andrea Bocskor (EPP, HU) started by saying that all agree that the human capital represented by young people is vital for Europe, and in this regard, we should ensure to make best use of their capabilities. During the crisis, young people feel they are excluded from society, so it is necessary to continue to deploy the EU strategy, and to review it. The Member States are the ones to implement youth strategies, but the EU should provide a framework of priorities. Different Member States have different problems, so the relevant instruments have to be adjusted to the particular circumstances, she added. She then explained the two main priorities of the EU Youth Strategy: facilitation of the transition from education to the world of work, and promotion of bigger participation of young people in civic activities and the world of politics.
Bocskor continued that her work will be based on the report of her colleague Georgios Papanikolaou who did the previous review; the December report of the Commission and the Council; and the shadow report of the Youth Forum.
The figures reveal discrepancies in the results across Member States. School leaving has gone down 11.1% since 2014, but in some member states, like Spain, Italy or Malta the figures are still very bad. Another important point that needs to be looked into is that the percent of young people following higher education does not fit in with the requirements of the job markets as some applicants are found over-qualified. Then, they are active in online networks but their election turnout is much lower. Young people become independent later and later in life. Unemployment is still an important problem for them, and in some Member States this is a huge problem. Some young people are threatened by poverty, more and more are marginalised within their society, Bocskor added. When assessing the youth strategy, it is necessary to look at the future with proposals to bring down youth unemployment, improve the standards of life of young people, increase participation and avoid radicalisation, she continued. The Member States have responsibility to do something practical in this area but coordination is very important, she added.
Ms Bocskor continued by explaining the elements of focus in her report: the possibility of funding youth projects from the EU, Erasmus+, European Social Fund, Youth Employment Initiative, as well as the responsibility of the Member States and possible national measures in this regard. Moreover, the Youth Guarantee will be touched upon. We want young people to have jobs, but decent ones reflecting their skills, she commented. Grants and scholarships would help. Then, young people’s attitude to work and entrepreneurship are also extremely important to be covered in the report, she added. Furthermore, promotion of inclusion, health, well-being, and sports will help them to be active in their society. Local organisations and youth networks must be supported. Lastly, the role of local and regional authorities is an important element, she added.
Sylvia Costa (S&D, IT) believed that a structured dialogue with young people is timely and having their say is necessary. She welcomed Bocskor’s approach to identify the problems but also the advantages of young people. This is an extremely important report of CULT, she added.
Momchil Nekov (S&D, BG), shadow rapporteur, said that young people's needs must be taken into account. He referred to the report of the Youth Forum and agreed that no synergies exist of the youth strategy with other EU strategies. This is not the correct approach, he thought. He then mentioned that 57% of youth organisations claim that their ideas are not taken into account. They are encouraged to have their say but it is then not taken into account, he regretted. Youth unemployment is always higher than general unemployment, so integration and inclusion policies need to be in place, he added.
Mr Nekov continued by narrating a series of priorities in order to tackle those problems: investing in horizontal skills i.e. entrepreneurship, foreign languages and early age mobility from primary school. In this framework, young people will be more skilful and more adaptable in the globalised environment. Also, skills from informal training must be of higher priority, he added. Not all Member States have good performance in this respect but it is important to do so, he emphasised. The special needs of young migrants must be also taken into account. Lastly, he insisted that entrepreneurship needs higher emphasis in the report.
Angel Dzhambazki (ECR, BG) said that the problems of young people are close to his heart. The threats for brain drain should motivate us, he added. Youth unemployment is worrying and initiatives such as the Youth Guarantee are welcome even if they look are optimistic. Implementation and review are important for a successful policy, he added. Finally, he stressed that youth organisations are important to be heard as they are close to young people and their own ideas for solutions.
Ernest Maragall (Greens/EFA, ES) wanted to make a general comment as he thought there was still time for concrete proposals. He was concerned that the approach of youth policies is “throwing money at problems”. Therefore, specific indicators are needed to measure the effectiveness of youth programmes. Also, more flexibility on how money is spent by individuals would be useful. Proper knowledge and evaluation of the budget envelope and the effectiveness of measures would help for more specific recommendations, he added.
Michaela Šojdrová (EPP, CZ) believed that there is evidence that shows how efficient funding is. We know that the guarantee programmes help reducing unemployment, we know that Erasmus graduates find a job twice more easily, 80% of them go to vote and they have increased interest in the future of the EU, she said. In this sense, she believed that it is proven how efficient funding is.
György Hölvényi (EPP, HU) said that subsidiarity is necessary. We cannot have strict rules, but only recommendations, when it comes to young people. He then presented three points that he finds important for the report: the role of local communities and the importance of young people to have roots, the role of teachers and the post-school support to young people, and the difficulties for youngsters to start an independent life.
Harald Hartung, representative of the European Commission (DG EAC), said that the implementation of youth policy is mainly done on the local and regional level, while the EU only helps to support and complement these policies by providing general coordination. The Commission monitors this implementation through different tools: the Youth Report, two relevant EC staff documents, the Youth Monitor which will be soon available online providing data for the 41 youth indicators from individual member states, and next year the first chapters of the weekly update will commence, he informed. Furthermore, there is now the agreement with the Council to present annual plans with the practical implementation of the priorities. Those tools have started working quite well, but there is still need to find the right tune, he commented. He believed that further work is needed on the recognition of formal and informal skills by the labour market. Finally, he commented on the question of participation of young people, and believed that we need to reconsider the available tools and adjust them to the needs of young people. They seem to have interest in participation but not in the specific tools available, he explained. We have to increase our outreach and work on giving them feedback on what they ask, he concluded.
Jan Wilker, representative of the European Youth Forum, welcomed the fact that their report has been taken into consideration and mentioned during the debate. He stressed it is very important to shape youth policy together with young people. He then highlighted the need for synergies with other strategies and insisted that young people should be involved in all levels of decision making, with main point of focus the local level.
Andrea Bocskor (EPP, HU) thanked everyone for their feedback and hoped for a good cooperation for a successful report.
Sylvia Costa (S&D, IT) closed the debate by informing that the draft report is to be ready by April 18.
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