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‘Overlooked and tokenised’: Europe’s year of youth falls short

As one of its promises to Europe’s youth, the European Commission said it would follow up on demands that arose from the Conference on the Future of Europe (CoFoE) for a seat at the table while shaping the bloc’s future

By: EBR - Posted: Wednesday, August 31, 2022

To reach out to younger age groups, the Commission set up an online platform to let Europe’s young people express opinions on bloc policies and the future.
To reach out to younger age groups, the Commission set up an online platform to let Europe’s young people express opinions on bloc policies and the future.

by Sofia Stuart Leeson

As one of its promises to Europe’s youth, the European Commission said it would follow up on demands that arose from the Conference on the Future of Europe (CoFoE) for a seat at the table while shaping the bloc’s future.

Yet, the European executive’s move to water down the calls for measuring the impact bloc proposals could have on young people, despite branding 2022 as the European Year of Youth, leave many disappointed.

As part of her announcement of the “European Year of Youth” in 2021, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said that we “will be ready to follow up on what is agreed by the Conference,” however, many say this follow-up so far has been less than comprehensive.

To reach out to younger age groups, the Commission set up an online platform to let Europe’s young people express opinions on bloc policies and the future.

One of the proposals coming out of CoFoE called “to ensure that all policy-making at EU level is seen through a youth lens”.

The proposal put forward an EU Youth Test, to ensure that all new legislation and policy are subject to a youth-focused impact assessment, including full consultations with young people.

However, in the follow-up blueprint from CoFoE, the Commission mentioned the proposal just once and said that youth should form only one-third of these panels instead of all, or even half. In addition, the test will not be mandatory but rather consultative, leading to concerns participant points may not be properly considered.

Frederic Piccavet, the vice president of the European Youth Forum, which represents over 100 youth organisations, told EURACTIV “the Commission’s current proposal for a non-binding panel is watering down the outcomes of the Conference of the Future of Europe, and it is a betrayal of promises that President von der Leyen made in her speech on the State of the EU last year.”

“We are tired of being overlooked or tokenised,” he added.

According to Piccavet, there are three elements that the Youth Test should include to be successful: “consistent participation of young people and youth organisations, systematic assessments of the impact that EU law may have on young people, and mitigation measures if the assessment reveals any potential negative impact.”

A genuine test must bring results instead of just being “an additional possibility to communicate,” S&D MEP Petra Kammerevert told EURACTIV. “The participation of young people must not be limited to talking, but is only successful if young people actually see that the demands they articulate are also met,” she said.

“I would like to see the Commission, instead of simply speaking about young people, also do something about it,” Victor Negrescu, also an S&D MEP, told EURACTIV.

“I urge the Commission and especially President von der Leyen to respect her commitments and her pledges in front of the European Parliament and in front of the Conference of the Future of Europe,” added Negrescu.

“During the upcoming State of the Union address in September 2022, President von der Leyen will announce the first new initiatives of the Commission responding to the outcome of the Conference, including on issues facing young people. At this stage, we cannot share further information,” a Commission source told EURACTIV.

Von der Leyen will give her annual speech on the State of the Union on 14 September.As one of its promises to Europe’s youth, the European Commission said it would follow up on demands that arose from the Conference on the Future of Europe (CoFoE) for a seat at the table while shaping the bloc’s future.

Yet, the European executive’s move to water down the calls for measuring the impact bloc proposals could have on young people, despite branding 2022 as the European Year of Youth, leave many disappointed.

As part of her announcement of the “European Year of Youth” in 2021, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said that we “will be ready to follow up on what is agreed by the Conference,” however, many say this follow-up so far has been less than comprehensive.

To reach out to younger age groups, the Commission set up an online platform to let Europe’s young people express opinions on bloc policies and the future.

One of the proposals coming out of CoFoE called “to ensure that all policy-making at EU level is seen through a youth lens”.

The proposal put forward an EU Youth Test, to ensure that all new legislation and policy are subject to a youth-focused impact assessment, including full consultations with young people.

However, in the follow-up blueprint from CoFoE, the Commission mentioned the proposal just once and said that youth should form only one-third of these panels instead of all, or even half. In addition, the test will not be mandatory but rather consultative, leading to concerns participant points may not be properly considered.

Frederic Piccavet, the vice president of the European Youth Forum, which represents over 100 youth organisations, told EURACTIV “the Commission’s current proposal for a non-binding panel is watering down the outcomes of the Conference of the Future of Europe, and it is a betrayal of promises that President von der Leyen made in her speech on the State of the EU last year.”

“We are tired of being overlooked or tokenised,” he added.

According to Piccavet, there are three elements that the Youth Test should include to be successful: “consistent participation of young people and youth organisations, systematic assessments of the impact that EU law may have on young people, and mitigation measures if the assessment reveals any potential negative impact.”

A genuine test must bring results instead of just being “an additional possibility to communicate,” S&D MEP Petra Kammerevert told EURACTIV. “The participation of young people must not be limited to talking, but is only successful if young people actually see that the demands they articulate are also met,” she said.

“I would like to see the Commission, instead of simply speaking about young people, also do something about it,” Victor Negrescu, also an S&D MEP, told EURACTIV.

“I urge the Commission and especially President von der Leyen to respect her commitments and her pledges in front of the European Parliament and in front of the Conference of the Future of Europe,” added Negrescu.

“During the upcoming State of the Union address in September 2022, President von der Leyen will announce the first new initiatives of the Commission responding to the outcome of the Conference, including on issues facing young people. At this stage, we cannot share further information,” a Commission source told EURACTIV.

Von der Leyen will give her annual speech on the State of the Union on 14 September.

*first published in: www.euractiv.com

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