EU ministers focus on challenges young people face
Mariya Gabriel: The Commission has proposed flexible alternative solutions through the Erasmus +, Solidarity CorpsEuropost , Brussels
The main challenges young people and youth organisations face during the Covid-19 pandemic were on the focus during the video conference of youth ministers that took place on Monday.
Ministers also discussed further support at EU level for youth exchanges and cross-border volunteering activities, Erasmus + and European Solidarity Corps, and the promotion of democratic engagement among young people.
Franziska Giffey, Federal Minister for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth underscored that mobility represents an essential part of young people's lives, but travel restrictions and related measures have disrupted almost all mobility-related projects.
Today's debate confirmed our commitment to help and put youth exchanges and cross-border volunteering activities back on track, she said outlining that they are extremely important for each young person, but also for Europe, by fostering Europe’s perception of diversity and European identity. International youth exchanges and transnational youth mobility will remain an essential element of youth policy in the European Union, she accented.
The debate was structured around the question: In your country, what are the main challenges young people and youth organisations providing European and international youth exchanges and cross-border volunteering activities are faced with during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond?
How can the European Union and the EU youth programmes support the endeavour to revitalise European and international youth exchanges and cross-border volunteering activities?, was the second important question that the ministers discussed.
They identified numerous challenges faced by young people during the pandemic, such as postponement of the implementation of projects and programmes, adaptation to predominantly digital environment, unequal access for all young people to digital tools.
Uncertainty in relation to future activities, health-related rules and travel restrictions and physical and psychological consequences from isolation were also among the highlighted issues.
Mariya Gabriel, EU Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, who took part in the discussion, said that over the recent months, the Commission has proposed flexible alternative solutions through the Erasmus + and European Solidarity Corps programmes. She gave example with mixed mobility, a scheme where participants can start their mobility virtually and then continue it physically.
The idea is not to completely replace physical mobility, which remains a unique and irreplaceable experience, Commissioner Gabriel said adding that the aim is to make the Erasmus + and the European Solidarity Corps more inclusive, facilitating mobility.
The recent agreement we reached for an additional €2.2bn to the Erasmus + programme will contribute to additional opportunities for young people, such as the Green Erasmus + initiative that will be tabled in 2021 , she explained.
With it we will involve young people in projects that contribute to the fight against climate change and they will be able to acquire new skills, share and develop their ideas, the Commissioner stressed.
Concerning the EU youth programmes, ministers welcomed the flexibility in the framework of the Erasmus+ programme and the possibility to use the so-called 'force majeure' clause to allow for the extension of numerous implementation deadlines.
Several ministers called for an increased financial support from the Erasmus+ and the European Solidarity Corps programmes and for further flexibility in relation to their scope. Some delegations also called for more synergies between EU programmes in relation to young people.