Commission launches youth volunteer ‘solidarity’ corps

Launch of the initiative at Schuman roundabout. [European Commission]

European? Aged 18-30? Unemployed? Want to work abroad for pocket money? The EU’s new Solidarity Corps may be for you.

Would-be recruits and campaigners on youth issues offered a wary welcome on Wednesday (8 December) to the European Commission’s launch of a scheme to give 100,000 people a chance to work elsewhere in Europe for up to year, either as volunteers or paid trainees.

With mass unemployment among the young helping to fuel a crisis for the European Union, where eurosceptic nationalists have been fired up by Britain’s vote to leave and public concerns about immigration, the Commission hopes the Corps can foster cross-border solidarity and positive views of the EU.

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Launching a recruitment drive, complete with baseball caps, T-shirts and signing-on forms in a tent outside the Commission’s Brussels headquarters, outgoing Vice President Kristalina Georgieva called it a chance to help “our young people do what you are best at – excite the rest of us about the unity of Europe”.

Allan Pall, Secretary General of the European Youth Forum, said he was concerned about running down funding for much larger programmes: “Volunteering develops skills in an amazing way,” he said. “But it’s perhaps not the most effective answer now.”

Volunteers will have travel and insurance costs covered, as well as living expenses and “pocket money”, while those who find intern and apprentice roles would have appropriate wages.

Some 4.2 million EU citizens under 25 have no job – more than two in five young Greeks and Spaniards and one young Italian in three.

Brando Benifei, a 30-year-old Italian centre-left EU lawmaker, said other types of effort were needed.

“These instruments are useful to mobilise young people … to develop a European identity,” he said. “To create jobs, we need stronger economies, we need growth, we need investments.”

But for Roxane Van Lerberge, 25 from Brussels, who stopped by the launch from her traineeship in an EU office, the European Solidarity Corps seemed at least intriguing.

“It’s a wonderful idea because of youth unemployment. It can add one more skill on your CV,” she said. “I would look for something social.”

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