European Parliament resolution on the legacy of the European Year of Youth 2022

The year 2022 has become the European Year of Youth thanks to Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who announced the initiative in her State of the Union address delivered on September 15, 2021. In that address, she stressed the importance of young Europeans in building a better future – one that is greener and conducive to social and digital inclusivity. The idea behind the European Year of Youth was to give young people more opportunities, ensuring that their voices are heard, putting us in the spotlight after the COVID-19 pandemic.

The European Year of Youth was established to achieve four general goals:

  • renew a positive outlook for young people and help them overcome the impact of the pandemic on their lives;
  • support and empower young people to become active and engaged citizens;
  • inform young generations about the opportunities available to them through public policies at the EU, national, regional and local levels;
  • mainstream youth policies into all relevant Union policies;

These goals build on a number of already existing EU policy initiatives, but their implementation remains largely fragmented and incomplete, and the Year of Youth is therefore expected to accelerate the full implementation of these policies and provide more and better opportunities for young people to participate as agents of change in society.

Young people’s most common expectation for the year is that policymakers will listen more to their demands and act on them (72%) and support their personal, social and professional development (71%). Unfortunately, disparities persist between and within member states, which often have a negative impact on young people – e.g., fewer opportunities for young people in rural or remote areas, unequal opportunities with regard to education, skills and job opportunities. In addition, too many young people in Europe are financially unstable even to the point of continuing their education and gaining the skills and experience necessary for a good start in their working lives.

Young people are among the hardest hit by the economic, psychological and social side effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic and political strains caused by Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, including mounting bills as a result of the devastating energy crisis and bleak prospects in the face of ongoing environmental degradation that threatens their physical and mental health. It is also a fact that the young are not sufficiently involved by policymakers in policy-making processes. This is why the success of the Year of Youth should be measured not only by numbers – the number of events held or their attendance, but also by the mechanisms and policies launched or developed to positively influence the position and role of young people in society.

The hasty adoption of the decision to establish 2022 as the European Year of Youth has proven to be a major challenge for EU institutions and stakeholders when it comes to properly preparing the Year and achieving the set goals. This is all the more regrettable given the urgent need to improve the lives of young people in Europe. Under the circumstances, the time available was not enough to implement meaningful and effective improvements for young people and yet 2022 is coming to an end. The implementation and financing of many projects has been delayed, which is why the Commission has been urged to extend the European Year of Youth until the next Europe Day (i.e., May 9, 2023), without prejudice to the start of the European Year of Skills.

However, the inter-institutional final conference of the Year, which took place on December 6, 2022, is welcomed. The tangible and concrete legacy of the Year should be the implementation of methodologies for engaging and listening to young people across the EU, on the one hand, and the implementation of new European and national policies, on the other.

Ensuring meaningful youth involvement and participation in policy-making and decision-making

A third of the participants in the Citizens’ Panel on the Future of Europe were young people between the ages of 16 and 25. There were voices on the panel calling on the Commission to adopt a full-fledged “EU Youth Test” to:

  • ensure meaningful involvement, participation and engagement of young people in the preparation of all EU policies,
  • conduct a systematic impact assessment of its proposals to ensure that they promote and reflect the needs of young people,
  • take mitigating measures if they have a negative impact.

It is believed that such a process is necessary to take into account the opinions of young people because the policies currently being shaped directly affect the next generation. Importantly, the “EU Youth Test” must not become just a bureaucratic checklist, but should engage people in a holistic way. The results of the test should inform and be linked to already existing processes, such as the EU Youth Dialogue, for example.

It is also proposed to continue the Year through a regular structured dialogue with young people in the Culture and Education Committee, with the aim of offering a democratic platform for open and inclusive participation of young people in the policy-making process at the EU level.

Intensifying measures for the well-being of young people

At the EU level, the link between young people’s well-being and the learning and working opportunities and standard of living available to them in their country of residence is being emphasized. It is noted with concern that young people are experiencing increasing anxiety and mental suffering due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Russian aggression against Ukraine, the rising cost of living and energy poverty, and the climate crisis, among others.

As indicated in the text of the resolution: “In this regard, there is a renewed call on the Commission and Member States to draw up a European plan to protect mental health in education and training, including informal and non-formal learning, to ensure the well-being of our younger generation in all its forms. It also stresses the importance of providing regular psychological support to learners, teachers and educators within the education system, and encourages increased links between educational institutions and cultural, youth and sports organizations, as well as networks of psychological counselors to provide extracurricular activities to increase youth social engagement.

The impact of inflation, soaring housing and utility prices, and the shortage of accommodations in some destination countries on the mobility of young people, especially the less well-off, is being observed with concern. This is why the importance of ensuring that EU programs provide young people and youth-led organizations with sufficient financial support to undertake mobility experiences, whether for education, training or solidarity purposes, is highlighted, and the Commission and Member States are therefore urged to scrupulously adjust the level of financial support provided to young people for mobility experiences to ensure the social inclusion dimension of EU programs.”

Tackling precariousness among young people and ensuring a good start in working life

There are renewed calls for member states to:

  • implement the Child Guarantee to ensure that every child in need has access to free and effective early childhood education and care,
  • quality education, including schooling,
  • health care, and real access to healthy nutrition and decent housing.

In addition, Member States are urged to implement an enhanced youth guarantee, ensuring that every young person is offered quality employment, further education, apprenticeships and internships according to their needs. The Commission’s efforts to facilitate the exchange of good practices and coordinate national action plans in this regard are welcomed, and it is encouraged to continue its efforts until the goals are fully achieved.

In addition, the essential role of youth work in addressing the challenges faced by young people is emphasized, particularly with regard to its contribution to personal development, well-being and self-fulfillment, and Member States are therefore urged to better recognize the value of youth work and to sustainably rebuild and strengthen youth work structures where necessary.

It also calls on the Commission and Member States to propose a common legal framework to ensure fair remuneration for internships and apprenticeships; it insists that all trainees be guaranteed decent working conditions and fair wages to avoid exploitative practices.

It is worth mentioning that IREPSO has already advocated the introduction of the youth criterion as a mandatory element of the OSR at the national level in view of the determined activity of public authorities in the field of youth policy and the increasing long-term nature of individual solutions in public policies. The concept of the youth criterion in the regulatory impact assessment of individual legal acts is also an extension of the conclusions, presented at the United Nations, the expression of which is, for example, the Be Seen Be Heard Global report prepared in cooperation with the Office of the UN Secretary-General’s Envoy for Youth. It points out, for example, the need to include in public policies long-term solutions and processes that affect youth participation in national policy spheres, as well as to create strategies and legislation that actively support youth policies.

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