Europe needs to build communities, provide opportunities for youths and strengthen education efforts in order to overcome the threat of violent extremism, writes Tibor Navracsics.
Tibor Navracsics is the European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport.
Over the coming days, thousands of young people from across Europe will come together for this year’s European Youth Event and YO!Fest to discuss how to bring about change. And indeed, Europe needs the energy and creativity of its young generations to overcome the big challenges it is facing, and to build strong, open societies.
This is critical today, as our fundamental values of freedom, democracy, human dignity and mutual respect are under attack. Terrible terrorist attacks, most recently in Brussels, have been a shocking demonstration of how exclusion and radicalisation can lead to violent extremism.
We all have to work together to tackle this very complex phenomenon, a form of complete disengagement from our way of living and our societies. Above all, we must support and rebuild the personal contacts and relationships that allow us to create communities. Communities where everyone understands and defends our fundamental values.
Everyone has a role to play: young people themselves, youth organisations, youth workers, schools, grassroots sport organisations, cultural actors and state authorities.
Education, in all its forms, is at the heart of this. Education, both inside and outside the classroom, in sports clubs, at youth centres, in families. Education is the key to providing young people with the skills they need to find fulfilling work and take control of their lives. It is crucial in enabling them to navigate the world (both online and offline) with a critical mind and a strong attachment to our shared values, able to form their own opinions and to become engaged citizens.
And above all, education brings young people together, allowing them to build friendships and strong networks to rely on.
All EU member states and I are committed to promoting inclusion, and our values ,as well as countering violent radicalisation through education. I am putting this commitment into action through concrete initiatives.
For example, we are targeting support at specific projects under the Erasmus+ programme – making more than €400 million available for transnational partnerships to develop innovative policy approaches and practices at a grass-roots level. Priority will be given to projects focusing on social inclusion, the promotion of common values and intercultural understanding. Erasmus+ will also scale up and help to spread actions developed at grass-root level with €13 million in 2016.
Youth organisations and youth workers in particular have an important role to play in this. Through their positive and comprehensive approach and their less rigid structures, they create a safe environment where young people’s views and concerns are truly heard and understood. Youth workers can reach out to young people, and they are uniquely placed to work with local networks involving parents, schools, social services, local authorities and others should they feel someone needs special attention or support.
Let me be clear: I do not believe that it is the role of youth workers and youth organisations to police young people. And it is important for me to make sure that we appreciate the great work they do as a value in itself – not merely as a tool. I firmly believe youth organisations and youth workers are particularly well placed to help us build communities that include and support young people.
That is why I want to do more to help them. We will develop a specific toolkit for youth workers and youth organisations. This could, for example, offer practical advice for detecting signs of violent radicalisation. It could also include guidelines on media literacy training, and a compilation of methods for improving resilience against violent radicalisation.
I also want to promote volunteering. It is important because it offers young people a way to participate in civic life, to embrace our values and to make a difference in our communities – acquiring important skills and having a great experience in the process.
With some 100,000 participants so far, the European Voluntary Services is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. It has played a big role in adding a European dimension to civil society. I will therefore strengthen our financial support to it and open it up to even more young people with few opportunities.
And I want to promote cross border volunteering beyond the European Voluntary Service by helping to remove barriers, improve its quality and foster its recognition.
The European Commission’s actions against violent radicalisation will be comprehensive. We will soon put forward concrete steps in the field of education and youth action, as well as initiatives to help prevent and tackle radicalisation on the internet and on working together with our partners beyond the EU’s borders.
For me, helping to build communities has to be at the centre of what we do – it is my main political priority as European Commissioner. And I know I can count on Europe’s young generations in making this a reality.
The European Youth Forum will launch, at its YO!Fest, an integral part of the European Youth Event, taking place at the European Parliament in Strasbourg on 20-21 May 2016, a ground-breaking study on the social inclusion of young people. EURACTIV is a Media Partner of this event.