The Assembly of European Regions has a long history supporting youth issues, with a particular focus on lifelong learning and economic development since its creation in 1985. A recent example of AER’s dedication to the field is that of its involvement in the “EU Regions – Partners for Youth” workshop that it organised with Harghita County Council (RO) and the Romanian delegation to the COR. Among the issues that were discussed in the debate, youth unemployment and youth empowerment stood as pressing concerns.
A series of questions resulted from the workshop, to which written answers have been provided by the speakers to follow-up on the discussion that took place during the event. In this regard, Mr. Gyula Winkler, Member of European Parliament, answered the first five questions, and Harghita County Council answered the last one*:
Q – How can EU institutions better coordinate youth policy at the EU level focusing on less, but more ambitious and clearly defined objectives?
A – It clearly requires a coordinated approach here, in order to provide policymakers, as well as their target audience, with the most comprehensive and harmonised set of interests, objectives and limitations that ought to be jointly tackled. In this regard, it is truly helpful to organise events in which civil society can participate. This would potentially include youth organisations that aim to gather ambitious professionals in their early stages, and provide them with a network suitable for exchanging ideas and best practices, while raising awareness about other potential opportunities for further specialisation and training.
Q – Are there programs to support expatriated Romanian youth in the EU? Are there programs to assist unemployed Romanian youth residing in Belgium?
A – There are various programs for scholarships and internships for further training. Establishing oneself as a competitive individual is key to a greater possibility of landing professional opportunities in Belgium.
Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) in the Budget Committee of the European Parliament (EP) have been particularly active in attempting to gain additional funds for youth professional programs, giving further impetus to the 2017 EU budget, which aims to obtain new appropriations through the mid-term revision of the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF). The additional funds resulted in a €1.5 billion pledge to aid in job seeking for the Youth Employment Initiative. Furthermore, the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF), which funds infrastructure projects, has been revamped together with the Horizon 2020 program and others (COSME, Progress, Marie Curie, European Research Council, Eures and Erasmus+). The funds would come from the European Fund for Strategic Investments, all aiming to increase jobs and bring prosperity.
Programs such as these are meant to support ambitious youth and young professionals who hope to convert their theoretical knowledge into practical skills, and gain additional concrete experience.
Q – What do you advise well-educated unemployed Romanian youth living in Brussels? Where should they look for programs/initiatives to direct their talents &skills?
A – As mentioned in the previous question, there are many opportunities for those seeking to step up the early stages of their professional careers, through traineeships and scholarships. To mention a few, one could start with those offered by the European Parliament; these range from 1 month to 6 months, from working at the Secretariat to working for MEPs. Much information can be found on the EP´s website, under the traineeships section, as concern deadlines, requirements or benefits.
Other prospects are also available at various institutions in Brussels, such as the Commission, the Council, EU Agencies, the Committee of Regions, or at NATO. The deadlines all differ, however they seem to be concentrated around a spring session and an autumn session. All respective institutions display related information under the careers section on their websites.
Q – Will Eurodyssey be extended to include all member states eventually?
A – The Eurodyssey program is a prime example of initiatives geared towards experience exchange and specialisation mobility. Certainly, the fact that the leadership of the program has been assumed by a Romanian presidency since 2015, is very beneficial to understanding the grievances of the regions that have not been so strongly represented. Despite this limitation, the initiative is aiming to bring forth more opportunities to a greater number of regions, facilitating diversity and progress through a wide assortment of youth related prospects. Enhancing this geographical balance as well as the working culture, language skills and professional capabilities in a coherent and harmonised fashion could arguably be considered one of the few ways in which we can make sure that the phrase “Unity in Diversity” will become more than just a mere slogan.
Q – Which are the specific EU funds a city can apply for in order to fund school programs similar to the “adapting monuments” good practice?
A – There are a number of grants, which could be utilised in this field, as school programs could fall under different categories of the EU funding schemes, be it development, employment, research & innovation, etc.
In terms of specific EU funds, one could look at the European Youth Foundation, the various Erasmus programs, the Human Rights Education Youth Programme, Eurodyssey mobility grants, or the European Social Fund schemes. In all of these cases, much relevant information can be found on their respective websites.
*Q – The discussion should be more operational. Give ONE concrete proposal of action that should be improved.
A – Regarding the education and therefore the economic integration of young people, it is necessary to develop a basic package that each Member State could guarantee to its young people, which would focus on access to high speed internet, learning a second foreign language to at least the equivalent of the B2 level within the public education system, career guidance and continuous mentoring, appropriate involvement in volunteering, promoting the right to a first job, and flexible and accessible forms of funding in order to carry out studies that offer career prospects.