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Common objectives for voluntary activities
The Commission proposes to promote the importance of voluntary activities in order to enhance active citizenship and solidarity among young people.
Communication from the Commission to the Council of 30 April 2004 – Follow-up to the White Paper on a New Impetus for European Youth – Proposed common objectives for voluntary activities among young people in response to the Council Resolution of 27 June 2002 regarding the framework of European cooperation in the youth field [COM(2004) 337 final – Official Journal C 122 of 30.4.2004].
The overall objective of the proposal is to develop, facilitate, promote and recognise voluntary activities at all levels. On the basis of European Union (EU) countries’ replies to the questionnaire on voluntary activities at national level, the Commission has proposed four common objectives:
- to develop the voluntary activities of young people with the aim of enhancing the transparency of existing opportunities, enlarging their scope and improving their quality;
- to make it easier for young people to carry out voluntary activities by removing the existing obstacles;
- to promote voluntary activities with a view to reinforcing young people's solidarity and engagement as citizens;
- to recognise voluntary activities of young people with a view to acknowledging their personal skills and their commitment to society.
In order to ensure that these objectives are properly transposed, the Commission proposes measures for each objective. These include the following:
- strengthening voluntary organisations, stepping up exchanges of information, and extending the European Voluntary Service (EVS) within the Youth programme 2000-06;
- simplifying legal, administrative, fiscal and social constraints, for example by exchanging information and best practice;
- encouraging the participation of young people by disseminating information at all appropriate levels (local, regional, national, European), by encouraging closer cooperation between the various groups involved (young people, youth organisations, voluntary organisations, public authorities, private sector, etc.), and by putting an end to the exclusion of certain categories of young people;
- guaranteeing recognition of voluntary activities by means of certificates, reward schemes and awards, by introducing at national level concepts such as National Volunteers Day and European Youth Week, and by consolidating projects such as Europass.
For the sake of clarity, the report also makes a distinction between the following concepts:
- voluntary activity: includes all kinds of voluntary engagement;
- voluntary service: voluntary activity characterised by the following aspects: fixed period; clear objectives, content, tasks, structure and framework; appropriate support; and legal and social protection;
- civic service: voluntary service managed by or on behalf of the State, e.g. in the social field or in civil protection;
- civilian service: an alternative to compulsory military service in some countries, but not voluntary.
The first European conference on civic service and youth was held in Rome on 28-29 November 2003. The conference was designed to allow an exchange of views, activities and national practices on the civic service of young people. Another objective of the conference was to identify ways of achieving closer cooperation between civic services at European level, including the EVS.
Under the open method of coordination, the Commission proposes that EU countries undertake to achieve all the objectives and submit reports on their national contributions by the end of 2006.
Following the new framework for cooperation, which identified voluntary activities as a priority issue, the Commission sent a questionnaire to EU countries in order to ascertain their situations and their expectations at European level. It consulted the European Youth Forum and called on EU countries to ask for the opinions of young volunteers, youth organisations and volunteer organisations.