In an effort to tackle youth political absenteeism, the European Commission is partnering with youth organisations to find ways to reach the young people ‘out of the system’. EURACTIV reports from Riga.
“European elections [in 2014] have shown that there is still a high level of youth absenteeism, with only 28% of young people under 25 who actually voted,” Johanna Nyman, President of the European Youth Forum, told EURACTIV.
“The divide between the democratic institutions in Europe, representatives and political parties on the one hand, and Europe’s young citizens on the other hand is growing,” Nyman insisted, stressing that such disengagement is so high that it would jeopardise the future of the EU integration process.
“At a time of confidence crisis in Europe, the EU and member states need to ensure that young people, who are still the most EU-positive age group, actively participate in the European democratic life,” she insisted.
At a conference organised by the Latvian Presidency of the EU, the European Youth Forum and the Latvian Youth Council this week (23-26 March) in Riga, young people and policymakers met to discuss ‘youth empowerment for political participation, a thematic priority of three presidencies (Italy, Latvia, and Luxembourg).
In December, they will make joint recommendations that will finally be submitted to EU ministers for a vote.
According to latest statistics, the participation of EU young people in elections on both a national and European level is steadily declining. Young voters abstain more than the general population in all European states.
The 2009 European election was marked by a rate of youth absenteeism of almost 65%, while the total electoral turnout has declined in all national elections in EU member states, from an average of 83% in the 1980s to 65% in the last elections recorded.
Bring back the NEETs
Up to now, the structured dialogue between policymakers and young people has reached and engaged approximately 40,000 young people across Europe, a number obviously small in comparison to the EU’s youth population.
“We have to reach millions of young people all over Europe,” underlined Antonio Silva Mendes, Director of DG Education and Culture of the European Commission.
Asked by EURACTIV how the structured dialogue process can be improved, he said that a new approach should be applied, having as main goal to reach those “out of the system” or the so-called NEETs (Not in Education, Employment, or Training.)
“We have to change toward a more action based approach […] We need to move from the high level process to a more local level, implementing the structured dialogue on a national, regional and finally a local level. This is the only way”, he pointed, adding that the enforcement of EU governments political commitment was also necessary.
Indeed, the final recommendations submitted to EU youth ministers are not consistently implemented.
“To succeed with the implementation in the future a limited number of priorities will need to be selected and closely followed-up at local, regional, national and also European level. On the other hand, the structured dialogue will always have to prove itself as an inclusive and transparent process”, said M?r?te Seile, Latvia’s Minister for Education and Science.