The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) has welcomed the designation of 2022 as the European Year of Youth, but feels that it should go beyond mere promotional activities: it should contribute towards the EU’s Youth Strategy through clear plans and commitments aimed at achieving concrete results for all young Europeans.
The EESC debated the European Year of Youth 2022 at its January plenary, with the participation of Anne Kjær Bathel, representing the European Young Leaders’ programme, Joe Elborn, secretary-general of the European Youth Forum, and Miriam Teuma, president of the Council of Europe’s European Steering Committee for Youth.
It is essential that young people have a say in formulating today’s and tomorrow’s policies, said Christa Schweng, president of the European Economic and Social Committee. They are the future, so involving them and investing in them is crucial to building stable, peaceful and sustainable societies and developing policies that respond to the specific needs of younger generations.
The EESC is uniquely positioned to work and liaise with youth networks, and is ready and willing to play a leading role in the Year of Youth, building on its successful initiatives such as Your Europe, Your Say!, the Youth Climate and Sustainability Roundtables and the EU Youth Climate Summit that it organises in the early summer.
The engagement of the EESC towards youth is well recognised by the European Youth Forum, as you are taking what we are saying seriously and acting on it, said Joe Elborn. He called for a moral framework on one generation’s obligation to another, and also set out young people’s key expectations of the European Year of Youth: embedding real lasting changes through EU legislation, making improvements in the production of youth data, and reinforcing democracy and young people’s perception of it.
Besides COVID issues, young people are facing social inequality, threats to democracy, values and institutions, climate change, demographic change and a revolution of technology and social media, said Miriam Teuma. Young people are here today; they are not next generation and only young people can empower themselves, but we can support, encourage, facilitate and provide opportunities and initiatives to enable them achieve self-empowerment, she added.
Anne Kjær Bathel called for a new business model for social entrepreneurship and less bureaucracy for young entrepreneurs, direct access to European funds and projects, and social inclusivity for young women and refugees. I really hope that together we can rethink the way we see youth employment. All youth, all around Europe they must have a voice in their future, she said.
The EESC is looking forward to engaging positively with the European Year of Youth 2022. The year must produce concrete outcomes for the European youth in policy areas that impact their lives.