Labour and Co-operative Member of
Parliament for Kemptown and Peacehaven

Europe in Crises: Youth in Crises, a way forward?

by Lloyd on 07.03.12
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Speech by Lloyd Russell-Moyle (Board member)
National Youth Council of Catalonia (CNJC)
General Assembly 3rd March 3012

Themes
– Crisis and its effects in young people specially
– The right of voting at 16 and the needing of improving our democracy
– The future of YiA

Introduction

I am delighted to be here today to address you and bring greeting from young people across Europe. As a board member of the European Youth Forum working on the Youth in Action fund, Sustainable Development, Health, Development policy and the Convention on the Rights of A Child there has not been a better time to address you, our Catalan members. The European Youth Forum is the network of national young councils and international non-governmental youth organisations from around Europe. We represent you, and young people in getting a better deal from all levels. Your struggle is our struggle and our struggle is your struggle. As the biggest democratic youth platform in the world we work on a number of areas including, employment, participation and funding of youth organisations, all of which I will cover in my speech here to you today when I talk to you about Europe’s crises.

With a Europe in crises where are youth now and what can we do?

An Economic Crisis

Our parents generation had free education, free health care, and often a job for life, these rights and privileges were not easily won, but they have been so easily lost. New generations grow up with a higher education than ever before but worst job prospects. What is becoming clear is that the claim of financial gain through higher education is being distorted when many graduates cannot find jobs and when they do they must fill jobs in which they are over skills and push the poorest in society into further uncertainty in the job market.

This division of society, between the poor and rich, between the educated and the not educated and between the old and young continues to grow at Europe’s peril. While governments and the European commission talk nice words this is not enough to tackle youth concerns now. This is why the European Youth Forum wrote to President Van Rompuy before the last European Council meeting calling on him to take act, to ensure that a youth guarantee scheme is on the agenda and to ensure that young people are no longer exploited with unpaid internships and never any decent work. He responded to our call, but the council is still to take clear action.

A Democratic Crisis

Young people making their voice herd is now more important than ever, as while the economic crises maybe gripping the headlines there is a bigger and more worrying cries covering Europe; a democratic one.

While the formal process of democracy is failing many young people, youth seem willing to take actions on the local level building networks and campaigns. We have seen young people on the street over the last year clearly saying that they want to take back their power.

With young people dissatisfied with the state of European democracy, extending voting to 16 year olds should be seen as an idea who’s time has come. The European Youth Forum in the next few months will be promoting a written declaration (this is like a petition of Members of the European Parliament towards the European Commission, the government of Europe) calling for votes at 16. Voting age across Europe, normally set by the national level, needs now to be reviewed. With Austria already offering votes from the age of 16, why can a young person in Austria vote at the European Elections but a young person from Catalonia not. A voice for young people who are worst affected and most alienated from the formal political process must now be a corner stone of a future Europe.

Votes at 16, would re-link that intergenerational solidarity between those who are young and those that are old and this is why for the next European elections the European Youth Forum will launch the League of Young Voters to build youth as a political force in Europe. Votes at 16, would start to re-dress the balance between young people being sidelined, as an electrical force and it would put youth policies on the map. Youth policies that time and time again are sidelined.

A Crisis in Youth Policy

National Youth Councils and youth organisations must play a key role in this, as it cannot be just be a case of individual participation and must include long term youth organisations that are able to engage young people in democracy. This is why it is so worrying that the European commission’s proposals for the future EU education, sports, research, youth and training programme fall short of helping build youth organisations.

The European Commission proposes to replace the present separate youth and learning programmes with one ERASMUS FOR ALL programme, and what at first seems positive will see youth organisations, local and regional young people and those most disadvantaged cut out.

If you are part the Scouts, a political party, School Student Union, an ESPLAC – Esplais or in fact any youth organisation the proposals from the commission must been seen as a direct attack on you. Cutting funding for these youth organisations, barley recognising the role of youth organisations will see the European youth sector destroyed.

By May 2012 the European council and the parliament will have held their first hearings on the proposals and a momentum against the sidelining of youth is growing. Belgium has put forward proposals to save the youth programme while Germany and France have put forward proposals to make sure that young people in Erasmus for all get a separate chapter and have secured funding.

While the commission claims that Erasmus for all will provide more money, the dedicated funds for young people is infect less than we get today and we must not let this happen.

We need to all act now:
– Contact your MEPs to make sure that they are fighting for youth in the Culture Committee when this issue is debated first later this month.
– Contact your government to make sure they have a clear position for youth
– Make sure that the Spanish delegation in the council will support the Belgium or French proposals for an independent programme or a separate chapter for youth.
Demand:
– admin grants for youth organisations (current action 4.1)
– youth-friendliness of the new programme including co-management between youth and institutions
Demand:
– earmarked funding for youth-led projects
– youth organisations recognised as agents of social change and innovation
Demand:
– funding for long-term projects
– values of active citizenship and youth participation to be included in any new programme.

Conclusion

I want to leave you with a clear idea that while Europe and youth may be in cries the tools to overcome this are in our hands. The youth forum and its members, you, must fight for young people. The timing has never been so important, the issues on the table have never been so great. Our answer to save Europe is to invest in youth and with us we should, we will achieve a better deal for youth and all future generations.

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Labour and Co-operative Member of
Parliament for Kemptown and Peacehaven

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