Only 28% of Europeans aged 16 to 24 voted in the last EU election in 2014 compared to a total turnout of 42%. Ahead of this week’s vote, EURACTIV looked at the proposals for young people coming from the main European political parties.
Boosting innovation, supporting young entrepreneurs and broadening the Erasmus student exchange programme are among the key ideas put forward in the programmes of the big political parties.
EPP: Boosting innovation and supporting SMEs to create jobs
“We need a strong economy for a society in which everyone is taken care of and finds security and opportunities,” states the European People’s Party manifesto.
The party promises to create 5 million jobs in the next 5 years, by building upon the so-called Juncker investment Plan, strengthening the single EU market and striking trade deals with third countries.
The EPP wants to make it easier for companies to access financing overall. For young entrepreneurs, it proposes a special scheme to encourage start-ups, particularly in the digital economy. The centre-right also wants to cut red tape for SMEs and modernise EU legislation so that it is better fit-for-purpose in a changing market.
On education and research, the party calls for expanding the Erasmus student exchange programme to non-academics and to reproduce it at the level of vocational training and schooling. They back further funding for the DiscoverEU initiative which aims to allow 18-year-olds to travel around Europe with support from EU funds.
The EPP also proposes the creation of a European University Institute 4.0 to foster innovation in Europe. It calls for more investment in life-long learning programmes to support education and skills-training schemes in order to improve employability.
PES: Reinforcing the Youth guarantee to improve access to jobs
“Our societies will face the future with more optimism once our youth have better prospects and our elderly no longer fear insecurity in later life,” the Socialists contend.
The Party of European Socialists proposes the creation of a European Child Guarantee to ensure that every child has access to quality healthcare, childcare, education, housing and nutrition, no matter their country of residence.
The PES wants to empower and train young Europeans so that they acquire the right skills for the jobs that are on offer. Socialists want to extend the Youth Guarantee scheme to help young Europeans get a job, a traineeship, or further education when they are unemployed.
The party also wants to reinforce Erasmus+ so that everyone, no matter their social background, can benefit from the programme.
ACRE: No plans for young people
There is not a single mention of youth, young people or education in the programme of the Alliance of Conservatives and Reformist in Europe.
When it comes to job creation, the conservatives stand for a strong single market and ambitious trade policy.
“In order to create jobs, growth, and for businesses to flourish, we need to help create the right regulatory and economic conditions. After all, the EU is a trading bloc, not a social security scheme,” they claim.
ALDE: Better education and easier access to funding for young entrepreneurs
“We need to strengthen our knowledge economy by investing in research and innovation, and equipping our workforce with the right set of skills for the 21st century while bridging the generational digital skills gap,” the Liberals defend in their manifesto.
In order to achieve that, the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe supports entrepreneurial education and soft skills, such as flexibility and interdisciplinary thinking.
Like the EPP, Liberals see education as a “life-long learning process”. They want more investment in educational and vocational training, more apprenticeships, and broader participation in Erasmus projects.
To fill the skills shortage gap and boost competitiveness, Liberals want more funding for research and innovation, as well as digital training. On education, ALDE proposes that qualifications gained in one member state are fully recognised across others in the bloc.
SMEs “are the backbone of prosperity in Europe,” Liberals say, calling for simplifying access to EU grants and other types of funding so that small businesses – and especially young entrepreneurs – can benefit from them.
ALDE also believes in trade as a way to boost jobs creation.
European Left: Defending a right to education
In its election manifesto, the European Left defends the right for all young people to free, secular, and public education. It proposes changing the approach to education by prioritising an assessment of pupils based on their evolution, not on scores.
The party understands that economic growth should go hand in hand with fighting precariousness and unemployment, “especially amongst young people and women”. They propose reducing working hours without loss of income.
Greens: Affordable education and fair access to the labour market
“Young people are building the future of Europe. We owe them the best possible conditions for doing so and the right to youth emancipation,” the European Greens argue.
They also support the Youth Guarantee, saying its main goal should be paid and quality employment. The party calls to ensure sufficient funding for the European Solidarity Corps, to give young people the opportunity to enjoy a volunteering experience.
They also promise to fight against regulations that hinder young people’s access to the labour market.
The Greens promote the right to affordable higher education, good training conditions and fair access to good income jobs for all young people. They call on member states to invest more in education and lifelong learning.
The party also proposes increasing EU funding for exchange programmes such as Erasmus, so that every young person has the chance to benefit from it regardless of their economic situation.