is 2009 a crossroad for Youth in EU?

Youth in EU: is 2009 a crossroad?

Youth policy will be a significant policy issue at the next EP mandate, as well as the role of young people in the European societies and their empowerment to address the future challenges of economy, environment and globalization. In this aspect we strongly believe that EP elections will be a milestone in youth – related matters. At the same time, current and future European and national youth policies in Europe will face severe challenges and will need to address true needs of both young people and societies in general.

Next EP mandate will have to discuss and push for policies that address the ongoing challenges of youth in the fields of education, unemployment, social cohesion, sustainable development and environment. More and more young people, as well as youth organizations all over Europe, in all levels (local, regional, national and European) are struggling to put their needs and wishes to the main political agenda. We feel that the time has come. European societies in general see the urgent need to do more for their young people. More and pore people recognize that there is a clear and present danger for young people, never faced before in EU history: the next youth generation might live in much worse conditions, in every aspect, than its parents. And everybody wants this danger to be avoided, as soon as possible.

Of course, such a huge problem requires action on almost every field of policy. And many people are questioning the ability of the existing representation to address such huge workload of reforms needed. We believe that people all over Europe are considering, now more than ever, the necessity of electing young people to the decision making bodies, in order to push policies from youth, for youth and by the youth.

Policy – makers and other stakeholders agree that some serious steps have been made during the last decade on the field of youth policy. Changes, though, and needs are growing much faster that the respective policy measures. And this is a gap that the current framework of decision-making and representation cannot address. Because they lack the speed and the instruments to hear at real time the needs of young people. And because people far away (in age and in mentality) from the needs of the younger people decide on European policy measures.

The main requirement of future European and national youth policies, as well of the next EP mandate, will be the establishment (in action) of a cross-sectoral and universal youth policy. European societies don’t want just solutions to a specific problem, but a well structured strategy for empowering youth. Europe has learned the last 50 years to be at the forefront of development and growth, but, if this is to continue, youth needs a different approach than today. It needs the main objective of long-term policy to be the excellence of European youth in every filed of competition with the rest of the world. Otherwise, the declining percentage of youth population will lead to a declining percentage of Europe’s achievements in almost everything.

We think that European societies already understand that if they want youth issues to be addressed they should elect young people to fight for them. We hope that European and National political parties will see this need as well. Otherwise political establishment and bureaucracy will stay behind society intentions and youth needs. As many situations have shown in the last few years, they cannot understand and work successfully with youth. Maybe now is the time to put young people to work for youth!

Theodore Karaoulanis

Vice President, (Hellenic) National Youth Council – ESYN

This article was published in Youth Opinion, an official publication of European Youth Forum (http://www.youthforum.org/Downloads/Press_publications/yo/2008/YO_futureagenda.pdf)

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