The EU Commission has made 2022 the European Year of Youth in order to promote engagement and participation of the European youth to build a “better future that is greener, more inclusive and digital.” However, despite the Commission's lofty language, concrete actions are thus far largely lacking.
On 20 January 2022 Vera Jourová, EU Commissioner for Values and Transparency, provided the EU Parliament during a debate on "Empowering European youth: post-pandemic employment and social recover" with details on the key aspects of the European Year of Youth 2022. The EU Parliament, ensuing the debate, adopted the resolution on empowering the young generation from 16 February 2022.
Focusing on young Europeans
In the light of the ongoing Corona pandemic and its far-reaching consequences for young people, the Commission has designated 2022 the “European Year of Youth”. The Year of Youth will go hand in hand with the implementation of NextGenerationEU, based on which, the EU pursues the objective to provide young people with high-quality jobs and to enable them to participate in education and training opportunities in the Europe of tomorrow. The Year of Youth shall help to create synergies with other EU programmes targeting youth across the policy spectrum.
The European Youth Guarantee and Youth Employment Initiative
Apart from Erasmus+ and the European Solidarity Corps, the EU Youth Guarantee and the EU Youth Employment Initiative assist young people in obtaining education and continued education and their transition to employment. In a Council Recommendation from October 2020, all EU Member States have committed themselves to implement the reinforced Youth Guarantee. The reinforced Youth Guarantee is a pledge by all EU Member States to guarantee that all young Europeans under the age of 30 will receive a good quality offer of employment, continued education and traineeship within a period of four months of becoming unemployed. The Youth Employment Initiative is one of the main EU financial resources to support the implementation of Youth Guarantee schemes and thereby provides support to young people living in regions where youth unemployment is higher than 25%.
Integration through exchange
In 2022, the EU launched its new programme Aim, Learn, Master, Achieve (ALMA); it shall ensure more cross-border job mobility for disadvantaged young people. The programme is particularly aimed at the most disadvantaged young people aged between 18 and 30, who are not in employment, education or training (so-called NEETs). ALMA will offer participants a supervised stay abroad of two to six months in another EU Member State as well as a comprehensive project cycle with coaching and counselling at every step. The overarching objective is to promote young people in improving their skills, knowledge and experience and to help them with social inclusion as well as to find their place in the job market. ALMA will be funded within the scope of the European Social Fund Plus (ESF+).
In general, all political groups in the EU Parliament expressed their satisfaction with the resolution on empowering the European youth, which was adopted on 16 February 2022. The Social Democrats (S&D) and the Greens stated clearly that a ban of unpaid internships remains a top priority. For Renew Europe, the adopted resolution is a first step in the right direction. However, it has to be ensured that further steps on empowering young people in the European Year of Youth will be undertaken. The European People’s Party emphasised that the Year of Youth must not just be reduced to lip service.