European Solidarity Corps Stakeholder Forum

European Solidarity Corps Stakeholder Forum

Posted on April 12, 2017

Meeting today in Brussels, the European Solidarity Corps Stakeholder Forum reminded that the European Solidarity Corps initiative will strengthen the foundations for solidarity work, allowing young people to participate in a wide range of solidarity activities and providing extended support to organisations across Europe. Since its launch in December 2016, 27.000 young people already expressed their interest in taking part in it.

Günther Oettinger, EU Commissioner for Budget and Human Resources, stressed that “we have a continent of peace, with strong solidarity foundations. Working with young people is key. There is an offer from the Commission to give robust financing for personal development and find a proper job. The consultation process is key and the forum is here to listen to your knowledge. We need a legal basis for this project. We need a clear definition and define what needs to be done at EU, national, regional, and local levels. Expanding each other horizons is key, as we see more conflicts, and we need more solidarity. The next 60 years is your future!”

Seen as a very good initiative, it is thus important to have tangible and practical projects. Erasmus+ is one success, playing a key role in the future of Europe. It is a community choice, building communities of communities, relying on the young people who can add knowledge to the newborn baby. As European Commissioner for Education, Tibor Navracsics, said “The 27.000 applicants cannot be disappointed! It is crucial to include these young people in your activities. We have 4.200 organisations willing to give volunteer opportunities. A good infrastructure is essential. NGOs can offer places, traineeships. There will be fresh money needed. And a solid funding is needed.”

For the President of the European Committee of the Regions, Markku Markkula, it is key to focus on education, life-long learning, entrepreneurship and innovation, with strong financial and political commitment (The EU will allocate 140 million euros for the next 2 years (2018-2020), via Erasmus+). Local authorities are key to integrate the European Solidarity Corps initiative, seen as a tool to build inclusive societies.

Today, the EU Commissioners engaged Civil Society in the further development of the European Solidarity Corps, an ambitious objective in alliance with the active support of and in close cooperation with a broad range of key stakeholders whose activities are related to solidarity and volunteering or who may have a key role in integrating young people into a European Solidarity Corps placement. Setting up the European Solidarity Corps will send a message that Europe is not only about economic integration but about common values and principles to help others who need support. It will be a hallmark of the European Union and what Europe stands for.

But, as Petra Kammerevert, President of the European Parliament Committee on Culture and Education, expressed, it is important to make sure that the format and conditions of the initiative are developed in the right way to make it successful – “The stakeholders need to be engaged and volunteering experience should be used. We cannot water down existing solidarity. We need effective mechanisms, and results need to be sustainable. It is good that the European Commission promised more fresh money, as it cannot take money from existing programs. It is not about undermining what we do already or give it another package. Solidarity is key, being European is key. Increasing employability is key.”

Furthermore, as Luis Alvarado Martinez, President of the European Youth Forum, pointed out, young people have been for long involved in solidarity. We now need to get this debate out of the Brussels’ bubble, and move locally! We have an opportunity to shape this initiative, but we need a clear definition of ‘volunteering’, in contrast to ‘employment’, hoping it is not a flashy concept that gets the media. We need real ownership!

Finally, the European Commission is preparing a legislative proposal, to be made available before the summer, to create a dedicated legal base for the European Solidarity Corps, based on the results of the public consultation organised on the first half of 2017 (closed on 2 April) to have the views of young people, teachers, youth workers, organisations, employers and other stakeholders on the priorities and the strengthening of this initiative.