The European Union (EU) Youth Conference, held between the 11– 13 March 2013, was the highlight of Ireland’s EU Youth Presidency Programme, and marked the culmination of consultations with 11,000 young people and 10 non-governmental organisations across 27 EU member states. One hundred and fifty young people from 27 EU Member States joined Minister Frances Fitzgerald and EU Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou at the conference in Dublin. A key focus of the meeting was on unemployment, which has emerged as the biggest challenge to the social inclusion of young people.
The 21 priority conclusions, jointly defined by young people and Ministry officials from the 27 Member States, will inform a Council Resolution on Social Inclusion at the end of the 18-month cycle. They will also inform Council Conclusions on the contribution of quality youth work to the development, well-being and social inclusion of young people to be proposed by the Irish Presidency to the Council of Youth Ministers in May 2013. The conclusions focus on the necessity of adequate frameworks and strengthening cooperation between local, regional and governmental actors as well as coordination between sectors and policy areas. Furthermore, they underline the necessity of providing young people with adequate skills for the future European society and labour market.
The EU Youth Conference is an element of the Structured Dialogue process which brings together young people and policy makers across the European Union to discuss and inform the development of youth policy at national and European level. The Structured Dialogue process was established by the Council of the European Union in its Resolution for a Renewed Framework for cooperation in the youth field (2010-2018). It is an important instrument to ensure the opinions and views of young people are taken into account in the formation of policies in the youth field.
For the 18 month cycle (1 January 2013 – 30 June 2014), the Trio Presidency (Ireland, Lithuania and Greece), in cooperation with the European Commission and the European Youth Forum, have agreed that the theme of the Structured Dialogue process throughout the cycle is Social Inclusion. This was subsequently endorsed by the Council in a Resolution adopted in November 2012. Each of the three consultation phases will reflect this thematic priority, with the results from each phase informing the next phase, leading towards a collective outcome at the end of the cycle. Presidency specific priorities will contribute to the overall thematic priority of social inclusion.
Androulla Vassiliou, European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth, said: "Young people have borne the brunt of the current crisis - and an alarmingly high number of them are facing social exclusion. We cannot afford a lost generation: we need to give them hope and ensure that inclusion brings tangible results. That means we have to make the most of our funding opportunities and do more to promote active participation in civil society and civic life. My message to the EU Youth Conference is that the European Commission is 100% committed to working with youth organisations to address social exclusion."