Comparison: youth exchanges, youth work and youth mobility

How do you want to support the work of (international) youth organizations?

EPP (European People’s Party): We believe that NGOs play an extremely important role in our vibrant societies. We must ensure that NGOs have sufficient funding from either national or EU sources, that processes to access funding are straightforward and efficient, and that Member States respect the independence of NGOs. We are strongly in favour of tripling the Erasmus+ budget so that more young people can study, train, gain international experience, and volunteer in Europe.

S&D (Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats): S&D pays very much attention to youth interests and is eager to get to know to their points of views, their feedback and experience., S&D has organised every year since 2014 the “Youth Forum on Gender Equality in a Progressive Society”. During these interactive 4-days-events more than 50 young people aged between 18 -25 from all EU member states, often engaged in youth organisations, come together in Brussels to discuss, exchange experience, learn and network on topics such as Gender equality, antidiscrimination, women’s rights and sustainable equality. This year – with view to the European Elections ahead – the Youth Forum focussed on how to boost young women’s participation in political decision making and how to fight sexism in politics. Our young guests met with politicians, experts, NGO representatives and presented their recommendations to the S&D Members of the European Parliament during the official group meeting.

LYMEC (European Liberal Youth, youth wing of ALDE): We believe the work of youth organisations should be supported financially, but we also need better recognition for the important work the (I)NGYOs are doing.

GUE-NGL (European United Left/Nordic Green Left): We start by listening to people who are affected by European policies, and this includes listening to young people. More details are provided under the following questions.

European Greens: We want to establish a European values instrument to support civil society and promote core values within the EU, and youth organizations should receive special attention in that. Through the Federation of Young European Greens, TILT and the European Ideas Lab, and through collaboration with other youth organizations, we aim to support the strengthening of civil society.

The sources of structural funding for youth organizations (especially on the international level) are limited. Application writing consumes a lot of volunteering time. What do you want to do to make the funding for youth organizations more sustainable? Where do you see chances to clear time for active volunteering rather than administrative overload?

EPP (European People’s Party): We are committed to cutting red tape for everyone, not only farmers and entrepreneurs but also for NGOs. Once we are elected, we will evaluate the European body of law and modernise legislation to allow people like farmers, entrepreneurs, and NGOs to focus on their core activities and minimise the time spent on dealing with red tape without jeopardising the standards and integrity of our system.

S&D (Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats): We fully understand the concern that administrative procedures should not take too much time and be too cumbersome. However, the European Parliament has limited competence on this issue which should be dealt at the technical level with the Commission. In this regard, we are open to listen to practical solutions suggested by civil organisations and NGOs and to facilitate a dialogue. On our side, we urge to simplify the application procedures. Indeed the Guide for applications should be clear and user-friendly. Furthermore, we want to promote the digitalisation of the application process and the project management that has to be accessible to all, stable, timesaving and userfriendly.

LYMEC (European Liberal Youth, youth wing of ALDE): Operational grants should be made more accessible for a broader variety of INGYOs, and the application and reporting processes need to become more user-friendly and less bureaucratic.

GUE-NGL (European United Left/Nordic Green Left): We have supported increased funding for youth-led initiatives and would be likely to support future measures to reduce bureaucracy and administrative burdens on youth organisations.

European Greens: The European Commission and the Council of Europe need to invest more on youth, not cut investment.

As FIMCAP we invest a lot of energy to make a fruitful exchange and a productive cooperation across continents possible. Unfortunately, often delegates and participants of youth exchanges supported by European funds are denied a visa. How do you want  to make it easier for young people from other parts of the world to get visas for attending at international youth exchanges?

EPP (European People’s Party): We support youth exchanges and building more understanding between young people from different parts of the world. We must work together with the Member States to reform their visa rules to not hamper the efforts of international youth organisations.

S&D (Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats): After more than 4 years of negotiations under very difficult conditions and despite all EPP efforts to undermine the agreement, we S-D Group have managed to adopt a compromise package on the VISA CODE during last April plenary session. The compromise package agreed in March is the result of a thorough preparatory process, led by S-D Group.
We S-D, recognize that most of the content of the proposal are technical elements such as the practical modalities for lodging an application, the Member State competent for examining and deciding on an application, visa and service fees, application form, supporting documents, etc. However, we observe that it is necessary to take a wide perspective and recognize the importance for the EU as a whole to facilitate legitimate travel towards it. For the S-D, the procedures set up in the Visa Code play a critical role for many and important economic sectors, such as the young people, researchers and students, which is of particular importance for many regions in Europe. Therefore, we fought for supporting and including procedural facilitations proposed. The most important agreed points are the following: A reduction of the visa fee for people under 18 year-old-, and children under 6. Students and researchers will continue to be exempted of visa fee. Deadlines lodging application: In the spirit of compromise 6 months were agreed.

LYMEC (European Liberal Youth, youth wing of ALDE): Visa procedures are often unclear, time consuming, expensive and very bureaucratic. Extreme requirements such as proof of a large sum of money before travelling can make the visa application impossible, especially for young people involved in youth work coming from disadvantaged backgrounds. The current visa regimes of both receiving and sending countries are a clear obstacle for youth work. Current visa systems recognize different categories of visas, such as business, tourism and other. However, the visa system does not reflect an important category of users, different from the existing ones, namely youth workers and volunteers. Situations occur in which embassies don not recognize the purpose of the visit and therefore do not issue the needed visa.  Requirements for visas differ from embassy to embassy, even inside the Schengen area. This creates even more obstacles. Worrying is that embassies put extra limitations on visas issued who contradict the free movement of people principle of the Schengen agreement. LYMEC therefore wants the European Union to establish a visa category for youth workers and volunteers. It is unacceptable that the European Union promotes voluntary work intensively, but refuses to take away visa obstacles. LYMEC also asks for the implementation of the Schengen agreement: free movement of people carrying a Schengen visa should be allowed. Countries who signed the Schengen agreement should not be allowed to limit entries and exits when issuing the needed visa. Visa costs should reflect the real costs, not being regarded as an admission fee. Further on applications procedures should be transparent, fast and according rules set and published.

GUE-NGL (European United Left/Nordic Green Left): Our group consistently works towards policies of more open borders. We have voted against all policies and measures of the European Union that make it more difficult for visitors and migrants to gain visas. 

European Greens: This is unacceptable, and the Greens have always fought against borders preventing people getting opportunities. We will continue to fight for this principle so that travelling freely across Europe can be achieved.

What are your plans for the future of the Erasmus+ programme, especially concerning the support of youth exchanges and international youth work?

EPP (European People’s Party): We believe that Erasmus programmes have been extremely successful and popular. That is why we will expand Erasmus programmes, especially for non-academics. Additionally, we believe that 18-year-olds should have an opportunity to discover our continent and what binds us together as an Union. Therefore, we are committed to expanding DiscoverEU Interrail for all 18year-olds. We are also in favour of tripling the budget of Erasmus+ so that many more young people can study, train, gain international experience, and volunteer abroad.

S&D (Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats): The culture committee of the European Parliament backed in February 2019 new rules on the financing for the new Erasmus+ Programme. We believe that his flagship initiative to unite Europeans deserves proper funding, therefore the S&Ds proposes to triple its financing from €15 billion of the period 20142020 to €45 billion in the 2021-2027 period. S&Ds also call for more financial support in particular for adult education and vocational training. We also demand Europe-wide strategy to foster inclusiveness. So far, the Erasmus programme has benefitted only a few, but everyone should have the same opportunities. The new Erasmus+ must be truly open for everyone and encourage the participation of everyone in the society. At the forefront of S&Ds goals is non-discriminatory and barrier-free access to Erasmus+, including more participation of people with few opportunities, people with disabilities and special needs.

LYMEC (European Liberal Youth, youth wing of ALDE): LYMEC welcomes the increase of funding for Erasmus+ under the multiannual financial framework post 2020. We want the ERASMUS+ programme to have more funding and be based even more on an international level.

GUE-NGL (European United Left/Nordic Green Left): We support access for all young people to EU exchange programmes. We voted for the new Erasmus+ programme (which is the main EU programme for education, training, youth and sport) and to triple the budget of the Discover EU programme (which enables young people to travel around Europe by train). We also supported increased financial support for actions dealing with vocational training and adult education. In addition, we supported enabling more young people, especially those with fewer opportunities including people with disabilities and special needs to participate. Regarding the European Solidarity Corps programme (which enables young people to volunteer or work in projects that benefit communities and people around Europe), we aim to ensure that this programme only engages young people in the activities of non-profit organisations and that these volunteers are not exploited as a substitute for paid employees.

European Greens: We also call for multiplying European funding for student exchange. The Erasmus+ exchange must be broadened and strengthened to really enable people from all backgrounds to work, train or study in another country.

In (international) youth organizations young people gain various valuable skills and competences. What do you want to do to improve the recognition of youth work and the work of youth organizations?

EPP (European People’s Party): We believe that non-formal education is extremely valuable and complements formal education. It offers our youth opportunities in managing projects, learning social skills, leadership skills, and being innovative – all qualities we will need in the future to succeed as a continent. We believe that more must be done to encourage recognition of non-formal education by employers.

S&D (Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats): Working and volunteering for youth organisations is an asset and the first battle is cultural: the job market must give proper symbolic recognition to volunteering which should be considered ad a pivotal experience for individual careers. The current lack of recognition of non-formal and informal learning needs to be addressed urgently. Despite the progress made in the last few years in the contact of the implementation of Council recommendation on validation of non-formal and informal learning by 2018, the provision of real access, recognition and financial support remains a challenge. We advocate for the creation of a European strategy with a view to establishing a common framework for recognition of informal and non-formal learning in order to facilitate the creation of relevant national procedures.

LYMEC (European Liberal Youth, youth wing of ALDE): LYMEC calls for securing long-term sustainable funding and visibility of youth organizations. We urge for better recognition of skills and expertise gained through volunteering activity.

GUE-NGL (European United Left/Nordic Green Left): We believe that young people deserve decent paid jobs, just like everyone else. Our group stands alongside young people in defending their rights to high quality, well-paid and stable employment and other social protections. We insist that young people, like everyone else, should not be subjected to the unjust impacts of austerity policies, precarious employment and unpaid internships.

European Greens: Definition of youth work has changed so much in last years, bringing professionalism and recognition to it. Also young people fought and won many different battles to be included in decision making processes. Thus today is not as surprising to see MEPs under 35 as it was 10 years ago. Young people are doing a magnificent job in fighting for their own rights and our role is to support them. We will keep fighting to improve youth work conditions, such as banning unpaid internships and implementing a European Youth Guarantee that effectively gives every young person employment, continued education, an apprenticeship or an internship within four months after finishing education.

Working together with young people at all levels, youth organizations are experts about the needs of young people. How do you want to make sure that the expertise of youth organization will be included in your work?

EPP (European People’s Party): We are committed to improving transparency of EU decisionmaking and bringing our Union back to the people. This will also mean our group is committed to evidence-based policy-making and we are always open to meeting the experts, listening to their advice and learning from them.

S&D (Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats): (1) We will continue to invite youth organisations to our conferences and seminars in order to give them the opportunity to take the floor and share their ideas and comments with decision makers, other stakeholders and European citizens. Furthermore, we will continue to defend their right to participate in European meetings on the evaluation of the implementation of the European programmes such as Erasmus+. (2) As Socialists and Democrats, we value the work of youth organisations and therefore we want to simplify the application procedures. Indeed the Guide should be clear and user-friendly. Furthermore, we promote the digitalisation of the application process and the project management that has to be accessible to all, stable, timesaving and user-friendly. In parallel youth organisations should be supported notably by strengthening youth work and non-formal education development practices within the Erasmus+ programme. (3) As Socialists and Democrats, we are aware that legal and administrative obstacles such as difficulties in obtaining visas and residence permits can impede access to international youth exchanges. Therefore, we will continue to encourage Member States to adopt all necessary measures to remove such obstacles and to establish fast-track admission procedures. (4) Erasmus+ is the most successful European programme and it must keep growing. We call for tripling the financial envelope dedicated to Erasmus+ in the future Multiannual financial framework 20212027 and for keeping the “plus” in the name so as to strengthen all its components: formal, non-formal and informal education, training and professional development, youth activities, arts and sports. We will continue to work for a programme that must be more inclusive, and accessible than ever, with a stronger focus on young people with fewer opportunities, school and youth exchanges and vocational training, ambitious cooperation with third countries. Regarding the new DiscoverEU initiative – the traveling experience for European people aged 18-20 – inside the Erasmus+ programme, we propose to fill with content so that it has a strong learning component, building on current projects such as European Capitals of Culture and European Youth Capitals. In parallel, we will continue to fight for a real accessible European Solidarity Corps which gives the chance to young people aged 18-30 to enjoy non-formal and informal learning opportunities through volunteering, traineeship or job activities in solidarity and non-profit related areas, including humanitarian aid. It is an invaluable opportunity for them to promote an active, European and solidarity-based citizenship. Therefore, in order to make it a successful experience for all, it is necessary to recognise and financially support non-profit associations and service centres so that they can provide the necessary conditions for a quality volunteering experience: organisation, mentoring, training and international partnerships. (5) As Socialists and Democrats, we will continue to cooperate closely with youth organisations by inviting them to our conferences and seminars and giving them the opportunity to take the floor and share their ideas and comments. Furthermore, we will continue to promote the importance of the European Structured Dialogue on youth, a participatory process that gives young people and youth organisations the opportunity to be involved in and influence European youth policy making. We encourage the European Commission to strengthen its efforts towards an open and transparent way of working and to improve its cooperation with the social partners and civil society including youth organisations at all levels of implementation of the programmes.

LYMEC (European Liberal Youth, youth wing of ALDE): As an umbrella organisation LYMEC is made up of member organisations, all of which are youth organisations. All our work is derived from resolutions and decisions approved by our members, and therefore their expertise is streamlined in everything we do.

GUE-NGL (European United Left/Nordic Green Left): Our group has several of the youngest MEPs in the European Parliament. This indicates that young people are heard and prioritised by the political parties within our group and their voices are raised to the highest level of political representation. We also welcome long-term structures for listening to youth organisations just like all other citizens representative organisations such as trade unions, NGOs and social movements.

European Greens: Green parties, and in particular the Federation of Young European Greens, are young in membership and we recognize the importance of the voice of young people to be included in all consultation and at all decision-making levels and in all policy areas.

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