MEP Irena Joveva hereby presents the Renew Europe Youth Manifesto, which is the result of a participatory process of consultation and co-creation by Renew Europe MEPs with youth organisations, NGOs and young people who took part in the Conference on the Future of Europe.
“As Europe’s youth is mobilised by the most important challenges facing our continent, young people must also be part of the decision-making process”, is the position of MEP Joveva and the political group to which she belongs. The process of talking to young people identified several key challenges and themes that are at the heart of young people’s concerns – from action on climate change, creating equal opportunities, addressing challenges in mental health, entrepreneurship, providing paid internships to fighting discrimination. “That is why it is important that this time, more than ever, we hear the voice of young people,” said Joveva, adding that this manifesto is an opportunity to encourage all young people to play their part in shaping the future of our Union.
You can read all 18 proposals below:
- Youth participation in democratic processes
Youth participation is a necessity in the democratic and decision-making processes at all levels. We need to listen to young people and take them seriously. We support the introduction of an EU “Youth Test”, following the conclusions of the Conference on the Future of Europe, creating a youth panel that would allow young people to have a direct influence on EU policies. It would also require EU authorities to evaluate the impact of upcoming policy proposals on young people in the EU, while creating sustainable and climate-friendly policies for current and future generations in Europe. In addition, we need to launch an interactive platform in all official languages of the EU territory that would allow young people to create a permanent dialogue with EU policy makers.
We support the launch of the EU Convention for Treaty change in accordance with the conclusions of the Conference on the Future of Europe. The Convention should adopt the lowering of the voting age for European elections to 16 years. Furthermore, we should encourage Member States to adapt their national Constitutions and legislation, in order to lower the voting age to 16 for local and national elections and to lower the age requirements needed for different decision-making positions in order to enable more young people to enter national parliaments and expand their participation in the democratic and decision-making process. We strongly encourage the creation of youth councils at regional and local levels to incentivise early-stage political and civil activism among youth. Young people should be empowered to take matters into their own hands, so that they decide their own future.
- A digital youth platform to make EU opportunities visible
Too many young people are facing challenges when it comes to finding paid quality jobs and traineeships providing career advancement, opportunities for learning and personal development, thus acquiring the skills that would help them thrive in the labour market. We need a one-stop shop for European youth, a digital platform aimed to provide transparent information on EU opportunities to every young European, regardless of their place of residence, socio-economic background or professional situation. This could be achieved by merging and renewing the existing European Youth Portal, Europass and Eures in a more user-friendly way. It should provide opportunities and information concerning education, training, job, internship or VET offers, financial aid, mobility programmes, advice on setting up a business(including legal and accounting support) and funding opportunities available from the EU budget, mentoring systems, a networking tool to connect people and skills, volunteering schemes, rights associated with European citizenship and access to culture.
- Paid quality traineeships
Traineeships deserve to be adequately paid. Unpaid internship costs the average young person in Europe over €1000 a month. It deepens social inequalities and particularly marginalises young people coming from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds. Traineeships are important for young people to gain learning and professional experience and support their transition from education to employment. They benefit both the trainee and the employer. We want to create optimal conditions for quality traineeships that will provide them with useful experiences and skills, with particular emphasis on induction and onboarding procedures. We need to legally ensure adequate pay or compensation for trainees in Europe and provide equal access to employment for all young people while guaranteeing that traineeships have a genuine learning component.
- Volunteering and a European civic service
We need concrete tools to strengthen European citizenship and the sense of belonging, for instance through a European citizenship statute providing citizen-specific rights and freedoms. We recommend the creation of a genuine European civic service open to all young Europeans, between the ages of 18 and 30 years old, to do a volunteering service in their home country and then in another European country. It would allow young people to combine the benefits of national or regional civic service and the European Solidarity Corps without having to apply twice, thus reducing the administrative burden, increasing transparency and providing them with a comprehensive and unique experience. This would foster the creation of civic services in Members States where this system does not exist yet and better coordinate existing civic service schemes.
- Addressing the mental health issues
The current social, economic, environmental, geopolitical, sanitary and security instability have gravely affected young people across the EU. Mental health should be treated with the same importance as physical health and rapid action is required. We need an ambitious European Mental Health Strategy and an EU Action Plan for mental health with a clear timeline, adequate budget, ambitious objectives as well as indicators to monitor progress. More specifically, it should include: the creation of a European Mental Support Network for Youth by the Member States, offering one free mental health consultation to any young person in need and providing tailored solutions; the launch of European Mental Health Hotlines that would pull together already existing structures under the EU umbrella and provide them with dedicated financial aid; and an EU-wide information campaign targeting youth to address the stigma, misconceptions and social exclusion that are often associated with poor mental health. This Action Plan should furthermore tackle a very worrying suicide rate among young Europeans. We also need to further streamline mental health prevention through educational institutions (via addressing mental health in school curricula) and in the workplace, as well as to strengthen data collection on mental health at EU level.
- Development of youth entrepreneurship
Renew Europe wants to empower young people, and especially young women, by supporting youth entrepreneurship. We encourage young people launching a start-up, taking over a family business, participating in the social and solidarity economy or setting up craft business by providing them with both opportunities and training as well as through facilitated access to finance. We propose to boost the Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs programme. This cross-border programme that facilitates the exchange of business and management experiences among young entrepreneurs should be given more prominence, funding and possibly expanded to include ‘meet your role model’ module and the European SMEs Corps, to give young people first-hand business experience. In addition, we want to create a one-stop-shop, including a business incubator, in each Member State for young entrepreneurs that would provide information on how to start your own business and how to apply for funding. Technical assistance provided by the Union for stimulating the digital and green transition – such as the European Digital Innovation Hubs and the Sustainability Advisors – should prioritise young start-uppers and artisans. We want to foster the Junior Enterprise initiatives at EU level, by financially and administratively supporting the creation of those entities, supporting their European network, giving access to training, exchanges and mobility programmes for the involved students, as well as helping them to work with businesses and SMEs from other EU countries.
- Recognition of professional competences, qualifications and diploma
Almost half of employers cannot find people with the right skills to fill their vacancies. At the same time, too many people cannot find a job because they do not have the required skills or they are working in jobs that do not match their talents. We urgently need to ensure full automatic mutual recognition of diplomas, periods of study, qualifications, learning outcomes acquired through non-formal or informal education or training, and study periods abroad, including in vocational education and training, in order to facilitate labour market integration of young people. We also call for further development of European joint degrees and diplomas together with the development, implementation and recognition of micro-credentials across institutions, businesses, sectors and borders. We advocate for a common European framework of recognition, validation and certification of civic and psychosocial competences acquired through European mobility.
- Investing in strategic skills
A shortage in strategic skills and brain drain are amongst our biggest challenges ahead. The EU already has powerful tools for research, education and training, like ESF+ (including ALMA initiative), Erasmus+, and Horizon Europe. However, the functionality and complementarity of these tools needs to be improved in order to reach all Europeans. We believe that now is the time to grasp the opportunity provided by the European Year of Skills, to invest in key domains based on the strategic ecosystems mentioned in the Pact for Skills and the Green Deal industrial plan. The EU has to invest in quality training, education, reskilling and upskilling by creating individual learning accounts, targeting specific programmes in educational institutions and developing micro-credentials, attracting young people to those curricula, especially young women in science, technology, engineering, the arts, and mathematics (STEAM) areas, strengthening the spreading of knowledge and expertise through exchanges of teachers, researchers and students. All those actions should be linked to the needs of the labour market, taking into account new employment and retraining. In anticipation of Industry4.0, the EU and Member States need targeted training and curricula in fields lacking a highly qualified workforce. We need to build up excellence curricula through the Alliances of European Universities and the Centres for Vocational Training, to compete with world-renowned degrees outside the EU.
- Towards a European civic education
o strengthen a European sense of belonging, we advocate for the development of national structures and curricula of citizenship education, including on Union values and the history of Europe, and for the setting of minimum common standards in terms of content and methodology. Europeans need to know more about each other’s historic and cultural backgrounds and understand where our differences are coming from and above all how the EU works and where it came from, and to learn about all available tools for their active participation. Moreover, we encourage the Member States to ensure that more focus is given to digital skills, including media and information literacy, language learning, environmental education and green skills, education on sexual and reproductive health, soft-skills, mentoring practices, entrepreneurship and economic literacy, and STEAM education in formal education and in age-appropriate manner.
- Safer social media, digital literacy and digital resilience
The digital sphere is a part of young Europeans’ everyday life. Making it a less intrusive and safer environment should be a priority for legislators and companies. We already successfully passed major EU legislation to regulate online platforms, counter disinformation and harmful use of algorithms, and now we need to make sure they are correctly implemented by the Member States. We need strong rules at EU level to enhance the security of young people online, and to prevent them from being exposed to harmful, pornographic and heinous content. We want to tackle cyber harassment, especially against young women, youth from ethnic minorities and LGBTIQ+ young people. Moreover, the EU should deploy awareness-raising campaigns in all Member States on disinformation, fake news, cybersecurity, the risk and opportunities offered by AI, and media literacy in order to support young people to better understand how to protect themselves and their data in the online world.
- Affordable and easily accessible European study loan
The current unstable economic and social situation has a direct effect on unemployment among under-30 year olds. We propose the creation of a “European study loan for equal opportunities”, with the support of the EIB. The scholarship-like loan will be particularly targeted at vulnerable students with fewer opportunities, on the basis of an overall assessment of their socio-economic background. It will be granted at an easily accessible and affordable rate for studies, trainings, apprenticeships and vocational educational training. Students will have to pay the loan back only once their education or training is completed and they earn enough to have a decent living. Study loans should be granted without a financial guarantor.
- Equal access to housing
Young people are heavily affected by the housing crisis, hindering their smooth start in independent and adult life. Lack of available infrastructure makes it extremely challenging to find housing without high deposits or help from parents and legal guarantors. We want to develop within the ESF+ a housing programme for those not in education, employment or training (NEETs) and young people with fewer opportunities coupled with training measures for young people, to help them find a suitable place to live, building on the work already accomplished by “Youth Housing” associations on the ground. This should be complimented by the New European Bauhaus initiative for more sustainable construction, as a “bottom up” approach that aims to promote new local initiatives. New living models such as local initiatives, co-living or intergenerational house sharing should be promoted at a European level as well. Within the regional funds there should be a dedicated initiative to support building of affordable student housing, especially in university cities.
- Creation of a European cultural pass
In order to democratise and Europeanise access to cultural works, it is necessary to increase the support and broaden the target audiences of the European cultural policies. We encourage the creation of a “European culture pass app” to promote the connection of new generations to the European project and heritage. We propose to provide young people, on their 18th birthday, with a virtual card that will allow them to benefit from a sum dedicated to European culture. This tool would give them access to pre-selected European works (books, films, video games, museums, monuments, theatre, festivals, concert etc.), promoting the affordable and free options.
- Fostering green mobility
We need to simplify access to mobility for Europe’s youth and seek innovative solutions to make travelling green means of transports more affordable and available not only in big cities. Harmonization of youth rail reduction schemes in the EU would be a good first step. There are special mobility offers / fare rates in every Member State for young people. This offer should be harmonised, giving every young European the benefit of those fare rates without having to buy an extra national rail card or being a resident of the country where they travel. The second step would be the introduction of a digital mobility pass, given to every European turning 18, that will carry with it several rights and facilities, harmonised across the EU (this could take the form of an Interrail pass with one month of free train travel, a set value worth of public transportation rights in cities of a different country than that of the recipients access to travel maps and guides made for young people, discounts for bicycle rentals and tickets for green transport, such as trams, cable cars and trolleybuses). In addition, a new European Cycling Strategy should incentivise the usage of bikes among young people, via an information campaign, facilitated access to bike sharing and other incentives.
- Commitment to inclusion
Young persons with disabilities are often denied equal opportunities and effective participation in our society as a result of barriers in various aspects of life. We need a Union-wide definition of disability and an expansion of the European Disability Card. We call for an unbundling of remuneration and disability-related assistance. Persons with disabilities should have an accessible study or workplace. In this regard, we aim for a revision of Council Directive 2000/78/EC and we want to unblock the adoption of a proposal for an anti discrimination directive (COM(2008)0426) which would greatly improve equal opportunities beyond employment. We need stronger provisions to ease participation of people with fewer opportunities in Erasmus+ and the European Solidarity Corps.
- Climate change: supporting and empowering young citizens
European youth is very concerned by environmental and climate change issues and rightly so: young people regularly cite the fight against climate change as a top priority for the European Union. EU institutions should assess the impact climate change has on their lives, and include those impacts in all EU legislation. In concrete terms, we must add specific provisions in environment related laws to target the needs of young people, also in the form of specific financial support for green mobility and energy efficiency. We aim to empower young people and support them to become change makers, through quality education, training and upskilling opportunities, and with specific funding of EU green projects and calls. The green transition is not just a challenge, it is also an opportunity to create growth, technological solutions, new jobs and a better future.
- Empowering young people in Europe’s rural areas, overseas countries and territories as well as outermost regions
Access to opportunities in rural areas is extremely limited compared to the urban environment. As a result, young people from rural areas are leaving at an alarming rate, calling into question the very survival of some rural communities. We aim at boosting digital connectivity and public transport infrastructures, as well as stimulating the phenomenon of digital nomads in these areas, to give young people more choices about their future. Based on the success of initiatives such as The European Youth Capital, we encourage the creation of a European Village for Youth, to empower young people in rural areas and to strengthen European identity in their communities. We also want to strengthen the support for the installation of young farmers within the Common Agricultural Policy.
Youth from overseas countries and territories as well as outermost regions are as much part of our Union as those living on the continent. We want to bring Europe closer to these young people and make sure they know their rights as EU-citizens and what the European Union can do for them. We need to reach youth in the overseas countries and territories as well as outermost regions with initiatives like Erasmus+ funding for education opportunities, the Creative Europe Programme for cultural initiatives and EU Youth Dialogue events. These young people should be particularly encouraged to do traineeships within the European Institutions, notably by taking into account the transportation expenses that they face, and participate in EU programmes.
- Support to Ukrainian youth
Ukraine’s young generation must be at the forefront of European actions in support of Ukraine. We want to include special provisions under the Erasmus+ programme to support the rebuilding effort of youth policy and infrastructure, bringing together not only Ukrainian organisations but also their European counterparts. Volunteers within the European Solidarity Corps could already participate online in different projects in Ukraine and specific initiatives should be envisaged for European volunteers to contribute to the post-war rebuilding of Ukraine. We urge for European support to target psychological counselling focusing on young people affected by war and young military personnel transitioning back to civilian life. We want Ukraine to be included under the umbrella of the European Civic Service. Overall, we need a comprehensive EU plan for rebuilding Ukraine after the war, starting with the young people who are its future.