Top priority for EU is jobs, say young Europeans

Fighting unemployment and the fear of losing jobs to other EU countries are two of young EU citizens’ chief concerns as European youth takes centre stage during European Youth Week.

The three highest priority areas that young EU citizens want the EU to tackle are, in order, fighting unemployment (52%), fighting poverty and social exclusion (45%)  plus maintaining peace and security in Europe (30%), says a Eurobarometer on young EU citizens and their expectations for the EU.
As many as 68% of young Europeans in the new member states want the fight against unemployment to be the EU’s top priority.

Fears of jobs being transferred to other member states

Two thirds (68%) of all young Europeans fear the transfer of jobs to other member states, as compared to 72% of all EU citizens. The concern is more widespread among young Europeans living in the 15 ‘old’ member states than among those living in the 10 ‘new’ member states.

Skills needed to find a job

Education (54%), professional experience (42%) and language skills (30%) were the three most frequently chosen assets that young citizens said needed emphasis to find a job today. They were asked to choose two from a list of six. The other three assets were computer skills, ability to adapt and willingness to work abroad. 

Active citizenship through participation

The survey says that young Europeans are less likely to be interested in and to feel well informed about politics and current affairs than their older counterparts. It also says that, in terms of participation, the last 2004 European elections were “disappointing” with only one third of people aged 18 to 24 taking part (compared to 45.6% on average).  

MEP Lizzy Groener, rapporteur for the Youth in Action Programme, told EURACTIV that she was very positive about youth's involvement in policy-making. She was happy that the Commission had committed to holding a European Youth Week every year under the new Youth in Action programme and positive about the Commission's commitment to include a structured dialogue with youth in all policy-making.

Education and Culture Commissioner Figel said that a European Youth Dialogue, not just a European Youth Week, was an aim for 2006. He also said that the Commission was working on a 'Youthpass'. The idea is for a Youthpass element to be added to the Europass whereby young European citizens could gain recognition for non-formal voluntary youth work undertaken. 

Asked what political commitment the Commission was making to respond to young people's concerns, Pierre Mairesse, director of DG Education and Culture's youth, sport and relations with the citizen unit pointed to the structured dialogue between policy-makers and youth organisations, in particular the European Youth Forum, in all policy areas. He said that future European Youth Weeks were set to be based on one theme per year, with Plan D [concerning the future direction of Europe] likely to be the theme for 2006.

Renaldas Vaisbrodas, president of the European Youth Forum: "Participation of young people should be the absolute priority for the European Commission. If we are building a Europe that citizens can relate to, we need to think of creating culture of democratic participation. The active participation of young people in society is essential for learning about democracy, and ensuring their continuing involvement in the democratic process from cradle to grave."

The European Youth Forum also says it believes that young people and youth organisations should be given the political and financial support to develop their own initiatives for Plan D. 

The current EU Youth programme providing EU funding for exchanges and volunteering runs until 2006. The Commission has proposed a budget of 915 million euro for its replacement, to run from 2007-13, called Youth in Action. In November 2005, ministers reached a political agreement on this programme (the exact budget still to be negotiated).

The European Youth Week has put young Europeans centre stage throughout the EU from 5 to 11 December 2005. In Brussels, participants have spent the week working in both plenary and working groups as well as being given the opportunity to voice their opinions in a hearing by the European Parliament.

On 5 December, a Eurobarometer on young EU citizens' expectations for the future of the EU was released. It will provide invaluable information for Commission and member state policy-makers.

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