What is European Youth Policy ?

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Young people nowadays face many challenges and live in a rapidly changing society. The young generation is very specific part of society which needs to be approached differently. Therefore, in practically all European countries, there is a specific youth policy. Also the European Union has its own youth policy which aims to meet young people’s expectations and support their active participation in society.

The inclusion of ‘Youth’ as a concept in European policy is a relatively recent phenomenon. The Treaty of Maastricht in 1993 extended the scope of EU policies to include the youth ‘field’, thanks to Article 149 § 2. This states that the EU should “…encourage the development of youth exchanges and of exchanges of socio-educational instructors…”

The pilot “Youth for Europe” programme was launched already in 1988. Before 2001 the activities of the European Institutions in the youth field mainly focused on the consideration and implementation of specific programmes. However, a consensus remained that this action and cooperation needed to be built on further and that young people themselves needed to be more involved.

A milestone in the European youth policy was the adoption of the White Paper on Youth, "A New Impetus for European Youth", in November 2001. It was the founding document of the framework of political cooperation in the youth field. It contained a proposal to the EU’s Member States to increase cooperation in four youth priority areas: participation, information, voluntary activities and a greater understanding and knowledge of youth. The White Paper also proposes to take the youth dimension more into account when making other relevant policies, such as education and training, employment and social inclusion, health and anti-discrimination. Among other things, this was a response to the apparent disaffection of young people with traditional forms of participation in public life, and called on young Europeans to become more active citizens.

On the basis of the White Paper, the Council of the European Union in June 2002 established a framework for European co-operation in the field of youth. Later, in November 2005, the framework was updated to take into account the European Youth Pact.

The framework is now made up of three main strands:

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   Young people's active citizenship   

The member states have agreed on common objectives for each one of the four priorities of the White Paper. In order to reach these objectives, the Open Method of Coordination is applied. Other instruments to foster young people's active citizenship are the Youth in Action programme, the Youth portal and the European Knowledge Center on Youth Policy. The structured dialogue aims at involving young people in policy shaping debates in relation to the European agenda.

   Social and occupational integration of young people   

The European Youth Pact aims at improving the education and training, the employability and social inclusion of young Europeans, while facilitating the reconciliation of work and family life.

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   Including a youth dimension in other policies   

The European Commission actively works to take youth into account in a number of policies, of which anti- discrimination and health are the most prominent.

In addition to these three strands, the European Union also contributes to the development of the mobility of young people and recognition of their non-formal learning experiences.

(Source: European Commission Youth website - http://ec.europa.eu/youth)