An EU first: youth Ministers debate youth participation in live broadcast

european-youth-forum-logoYesterday, for the first time ever, the 28 EU Ministers responsible for youth met for a “High Level Policy Debate” to publicly discuss “empowering young people for political participation in the democratic life in Europe” at the Council of the European Union in Brussels. On the same day, the Ministers adopted a set of Council Conclusions on enhancing a cross-sectorial policy cooperation in order to effectively address the socio-economic challenges facing young people and on reinforcing youth work to ensure cohesive societies. 

This is the first time that a high-level policy debate has addressed the same topic as the Structured Dialogue on youth, bringing youth policy makers in the Council into the public arena and allowing – through a live stream of the debate – young people and the general public to watch, assess and comment on the debate via social media. The debate will provide political direction and input on the proposals jointly drafted by young people and decision-makers through the Structured Dialogue, through which, since July 2014, more than 40,000 young people from all over Europe have been discussing with decision-makers how to empower young people for political participation in democratic life.

Johanna Nyman, President of the European Youth Forum, commented:

“The European Youth Forum is delighted with this important step to open up the debates on youth issues, which previously took place behind closed doors. We were pleased to see that Ministers’ positions were very much in line with what we are calling for and that they made the effort to share their ideas, proposals and examples in youth-friendly language. Overall, I am satisfied to see that Member States are committed to the idea of youth participation as a way of building more inclusive societies.”

The Youth Forum in particular was pleased to note:

  • The efforts of several EU countries to open the debate on vote at 16, and to implement it in local elections, in line with what was discussed in the European Youth Conference in Riga.
  • A vast majority of Member States calling for citizenship education in formal curricula. Although we would like to see greater emphasis on the cooperation between formal and non-formal education providers.
  • That youth organisations and youth councils were highlighted as key actors of real political participation.
  • A significant majority of ministers agreed on the clear need for innovative tools for political participation.

The European Youth Forum is pleased to see that the importance of a “cross-sectorial” approach was finally recognised by Council Conclusions, adopted by the Ministers yesterday, and expects this to become the norm in future EU level youth policy. Only when all sectors fully cooperate in a coordinated way can lives of young people be improved and efficient solutions to their problems be found. The Youth Forum believes that more emphasis should have been given, in the Conclusions, to the involvement of young people and, specifically, to youth organisations beyond mere consultation and during all stages of policy-making on the issues that affect them.

The European Youth Forum welcomes the general focus of the Council on the importance of youth work to ensure cohesive societies. Recently, many efforts have been made by the European institutions and by other international fora to highlight the importance of youth work and to promote its recognition. The Youth Forum regrets to see that Council invites the Commission to consider making a proposal for Council Recommendations on the basis of existing and new studies. The Youth Forum believes that enough studies have been carried out to prove the importance of youth work and is convinced that at this point more incisive political actions should have been proposed.

Johanna Nyman continues:

“We are pleased to see a positive direction taken by the Council to move away from ‘pigeon-holing’ youth policy; because the problems facing young people today cannot be tackled by different initiatives in isolation. Now, it is time to transform these good intentions into reality and to implement a holistic approach to youth policy at local, national as well as European level.

“We welcome the focus on youth work and its importance in creating more cohesive societies. It is a shame, however, to see the Council delay concrete proposals on youth work and call for further evidence when we know that the impact of youth work is already clearly proved. Youth work is a key way that young people can grow and learn, but it also has a huge knock on beneficial impact on their communities and on wider society. Leaders and governments should recognise this impact and make sure that youth organisations and others carrying out youth work get the funding they need.”

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