Almost 50.000 young people took part in consultations, debates and events on the future of youth policies in Europe as part of the EU Structured Dialogue. Based on their feedback and after intensive work, 11 Youth Goals were adopted in the Youth Conference in Sofia (April 2018). Audrey Frith, the Director of Eurodesk and participant of the Conference shares her views on the process.
I think, most young people in the process can be proud of the document adopted. Now, the question is: what to do with the results. Creating ownership and giving a political value to the 11 Youth Goals were the key issues debated at the last conference of the 6th Cycle of the Structured Dialogue that took place in Vienna, Austria on 2-4 September 2018. Organised by the Austrian Presidency of the European Union, it brought together over 250 delegates to discuss the future of the 11 Youth Goals.
This conference was particularly timely as negotiations are taking place on the European Youth Strategy (2019-2027) to be adopted by the Council in November 2018. Young delegates voiced the need to include the Youth Goals as priority areas of the EU Youth Strategy. An informal meeting of Youth Ministers took place in parallel to the conference during which similar discussions took place. Should the Goals be mentioned or annexed to the Strategy? How should they be tackled in future Youth Conferences? Nothing is set yet.
I personally see a need to have more clarity in the EU Youth Strategy when it comes to European priorities. The Youth Goals put forward very clear messages; they are about strengthening the connection between the EU and young people, ensuring quality youth information about Europe and the opportunities it offers, advocating for stronger EU programmes supporting mobility and exchanges across countries, and encouraging policies that support a meaningful participation of young people in decision-making. Considering the current political context, those goals have to be addressed urgently by decision-makers – whether they are annexed or included in the text.
As observer of the Youth Dialogue process, I think that the Goals should remain a cohesive set of guiding principles for European and national youth strategies and be linked to clear targets and funds. The Youth Conferences could become milestones to evaluate the progress in reaching these goals. I do not envision that Youth Goals are tackled one-by-one every six month. Instead, I think we should integrate researchers into the process to make sure we can monitor the situation of young people by reaching out even more broadly during the consultation process, and have their views on possible solutions during the national and European events.
When it comes to the EU Youth Strategy, Eurodesk has been pushing for youth information to be recognised as a horizontal priority (see our papers). The draft strategy is fostering a “vision of a continent where young people can seize opportunities and relate to European values”. But young people need to understand what is considered to be European values and need to know about European opportunities in order to seize them. Having access to free and reliable information, at European, national and local level, empowers them to make informed decisions and to fully participate in society. Unfortunately, today access to such information remains very unequal across Europe.
Considering the 11 Youth Goals, it is clear how efficient the process can be. We can also see that young people want to connect with the European project and have their voice heard and taken in account. However, the impact of the whole process remains a challenge: it will depend on Members’ States finding a common position on what to do next. So, I go back to the initial question: “Youth in Europe: What’s Next?”. Hopefully young people can be part of the solution.
What’s the Structured Dialogue?
The Structured Dialogue takes place all over Europe. Young people and decision makers meet to exchange their views and shape political decisions together. The Structured Dialogue is being implemented since 2010. Every 18-month a new overall topic is being put on the agenda and discussed on a regional, national and European level. For joint discussions on a European level, EU Youth conferences are held every 6 months (check the FAQ).
What are Youth Conferences?
EU Youth Conferences take place during every Presidency of the Council of the EU (6-month period). Youth elected representatives, together with national governments and European Commission officials discuss and debate youth-related issues and come up with conclusions, that are then submitted to the Council of Ministers, as a way of ensuring that young people can co-shape the policies affecting their lives.
Youth Goals: http://www.youthgoals.eu/
Youth reporters, Jugendinfo training, Day 1 – Day 2 and Day 3