The European Youth Forum is, this year, celebrating its 20th anniversary and in a major high-level event yesterday evening (14th April) featuring European Commission Vice President Jyrki Katainen and Commissioner responsible for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, Tibor Navracsics it called on the EU to invest in its future and to invest in young people.
The event, which took place at the Natural Science Museum in Brussels, saw top EU decision makers, including Ms. Aida Hadzialic, Swedish Minister for Upper Secondary School and Adult Education and Training, debate with young people the big issues that affect them, including migration, extremism and the future of the EU.
In a keynote speech on Investing in Youth Vice President Katainen, a Youth Forum alumnus, emphasised the importance of investing in young people, and that education and youth policy are vital to creating “inclusive societies”, but also to the economy. At the same time Vice President Katainen stated that in the upcoming EU budget negotiations prioritisation of spending would be necessary, but he is ready to listen to young people on where the money should be spent.
Johanna Nyman, President of the European Youth Forum, said:
“2016 is a milestone for the European Youth Forum: this year we mark 20 years of, as youth organisations, uniting to stand together and to fight for youth rights. We have achieved great things over the last 20 years, but there is still so much more to be done!
“In 20 years a lot has changed: Many of us young Europeans have more opportunities than before, such as access to quality education and increased mobility. However, we also have fewer opportunities than our parents. Unemployment is way too high amongst young people and our rights are not upheld so that we are not able to achieve our full potential. That is why we call on the European Union to invest in its future and to invest in youth.”
Addressing Youth Forum members and partners, Commissioner Navracsics said that young people are the most disadvantaged age group in Europe and that the European Commission is seeking to give young people a voice in policy making. Reflecting on extremism and violent radicalisation, Commissioner Navracsics, said that “in order to build open and tolerant societies we should not see young people as a problem” and he urged youth organisations, as well as young people themselves, to help tackle the issue at the grassroots and community level.
Aida Hadzialic, Sweden’s youngest ever minister, told her story of arriving in Sweden as a young refugee and her journey to Government minister. She urged political leaders to share power with young people and said that for youth organisations to be able to carry out their mission they need proper support and funding.
The event marked the start of the European Youth Forum’s Council of Members which continues until Saturday 16th April, during which delegates from over 100 youth organisations will debate and adopt policy on topics such as youth discrimination, inclusion and youth policy standards.