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European Voluntary Service for Young People: action programme

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1) OBJECTIVE

To help young Europeans become more mobile, and hence more active citizens, provide them with a formative experience in several areas of activity and encourage them to make an active contribution to building Europe and to co-operation between the Community and non-member countries by taking part in transnational activities of benefit to the community.

2) COMMUNITY MEASURE

Decision 1686/98/EC of the European Parliament and the Council of 20 July 1998 establishing the Community action programme "European Voluntary Service for Young People".

3) CONTENT

The Community action programme "European Voluntary Service for Young People" has been adopted for the period from 1 January 1998 to 31 December 1999.

The programme comes under the general aims of co-operation policy on youth as laid down in the Youth for Europe programme. It is intended to foster solidarity and mobility among young Europeans, and hence help them become more active citizens, and provide them with a formative experience, for which a certificate is issued.

The specific aims of the programme are as follows:

  • to step up participation of young people legally residing in a Member State in long- or short-term transnational activities for the common good within the Community or in non-member countries; these activities should not be a substitute for potential or existing remunerated jobs;
  • to encourage recognition of the value of an informal formative experience for which there is a validation system at European level;
  • to encourage the spirit of initiative, creativity and solidarity amongst young people in order to promote their integration into society and to help them contribute to achieving the programme's aims;
  • to facilitate access of all young people to the programme.

To this end, action is being taken primarily to:

  • support transnational activities for the common good within the Community and in non-member countries;
  • support activities designed to promote partnership in the framework of the voluntary European service and pioneering networking measures;
  • support projects for following up of the young volunteers and capitalising on the experience gained by them;
  • support and develop the preparation - especially in respect of language and culture - and supervision of young volunteers;
  • upgrade the quality of the programme's activities as a whole, develop the European dimension and contribute to cooperation in the field of youth policy.

The budget for implementing the programme is set at 47.5 million euro for 1998-1999.

A special effort will be made to ensure that the programme's activities are accessible to all young people on a non-discriminatory basis.

A particular effort must be made to help young people who, for cultural, social, physical, economic or geographical reasons find it most difficult to participate in the existing action programmes.

The programme is open to the EFTA countries.

Note that the programme is designed to complement other Member State and Community activities on behalf of young people and should be implemented in co-operation with the relevant international organisations, in particular the Council of Europe.

The Commission and the Member States will take appropriate measures to develop the structures put in place at Community and national level under the programme, by providing for assessment and follow up. In this connection, the Commission and the Member States will see to it that volunteers are thoroughly informed about their rights and obligations at European, national and local level.

Each Member State will make every effort to adopt the necessary measures to make the programme work, notably by removing the legal and administrative barriers to access to the programme and transnational mobility of the young volunteers, and as regards recognition of the specific situation of the young volunteer.

Young volunteers will receive a European certificate, prepared by the Commission in cooperation with the Member States, attesting to their period of European voluntary service and the experience and skills acquired.

In implementing the programme, the Commission will be assisted by a committee made up of representatives of the Member States and chaired by a Commission representative.

In good time, the Commission will submit to the European Parliament and the Council an evaluation report on the Community youth actions.

4) DEADLINE FOR IMPLEMENTATION OF THE LEGISLATION IN THE MEMBER STATES

Not required

5) DATE OF ENTRY INTO FORCE (if different from the above)

31.07.1998

6) REFERENCES

Official Journal L 214, 31.07.1998

7) FOLLOW-UP WORK

8) COMMISSION IMPLEMENTING MEASURES

Decision - C(98) 2486/2 C(98)2486 [not published in the Official Journal]
On 4 September 1998, the Commission adopted a decision on the adoption of procedures for implementing the European Voluntary Service Programme
- User Guide, the Commission's work plan for implementing the programme in 1998 and the distribution of decentralised appropriations in 1998.

The user guide describes the mechanisms for implementing the European Voluntary Service Programme and in particular contains detailed information on:

  • the role of the various players in the programme;
  • the type of activities eligible for funding under the programme;
  • the formal eligibility criteria;
  • the procedures leading to the establishment of projects linked to the programme;
  • funding mechanisms.

The plan of work sets out the priorities laid down by the Commission for putting in place the new programme in 1998 in the light of the results of the pilot European Voluntary Service. The new features linked to the pilot action are as follows:

  • new funding mechanisms;
  • development of multilateral projects;
  • strengthening of cooperation with third countries;
  • short-term activities;
  • training measures;
  • Action entitled "A foundation for the future".

Decision - C(99) 1 [not published in the Official Journal]
On 13 January 1999 the Commission adopted the Decision on the adoption of measures to implement the European Voluntary Service (EVS) programme: work plan for 1999, distribution of decentralised appropriations by Member State.

The European Voluntary Service was launched on 31 July 1998, and hence the 1999 work programme is largely inspired by its 1998 predecessor. In the light of the programme's initial results, the Commission presents a series of priorities.

a) the decentralised strand
This strand includes long- and short-term projects. They are the core of the programme (representing almost 75% of postings in the context of the pilot programme). The Commission wishes to confirm the priority given to projects of this kind in budgetary terms. Hence 11 600 000 euro have been allocated to long-term EVS activities, or almost 51.6% of the total programme budget. This should make it possible to post approximately 2 000 long-term volunteers.
With an eye to flexibility, the programme also provides for posting short-term volunteers (three weeks to three months). The progressive implementation of projects of this kind continues in 1999 and should make it possible to recruit specific target populations who have particular difficulties in accessing the voluntary service. The amount budgeted for actions of this kind is 800 000 euro.

b) the centralised strand
This strand consists of various types of projects:

  • multilateral projects: implementing projects of this kind involves partners from different Member States; in its work programme the Commission envisages opening participation to all public or private agencies (associations, municipalities, etc.) that have partners in at least six Member States. The amount budgeted for multilateral projects remains at 1 600 000 euro in 1999;
  • activities of an exceptional nature: projects of this kind are designed to link the programme with exceptional events in order to attract more volunteers and to raise its profile. In 1999 two events will be financed: in Weimar, a team of young volunteers will contribute to organising and promoting cultural activities on the preservation of Europe's joint historical heritage; on the Saint Jacques de Compostella pilgrimage route volunteers will organise a cultural programme. The budget for these projects is 600 000 euro for 1999;
  • projects with third countries: the Commission wants to prioritise projects focused on central and eastern Europe and the Mediterranean basin, and more particularly projects designed to improve training and the creation of partnerships. Once the Euro-Mediterranean Youth Programme (EURO-MED J) has been launched, cooperation will have to be established with the EVS. The amount budgeted for these projects is 550 000 euro;
  • experimental short-term projects: the Commission is keen to support innovative projects proposed by competent organisations, while examining the specific contribution of such projects;
  • training activities: the Commission plans to develop projects, particularly for instructors, in cooperation with the Youth for Europe Programme.

Volunteer insurance: in 1998 volunteer insurance was managed by the national agencies and the NGOs handling the projects. In order to simplify matters and limit the number of intermediaries, the Commission proposes centralised management of volunteer insurance for the 1999 projects. To this end, an amount of 1 209 257 euro has been budgeted.
The EVS programme's success depends largely on the educational value of the volunteer service. In order to fully meet volunteers' expectations, the Commission wants preparatory activities before departure to be continued, so that volunteers can adapt more rapidly to the realities of each country. Likewise, an effort must be made to improve information on and promotion of the programme by giving greater support to the national agencies and continuing to raise public awareness (mail, Internet, local and regional media, players, exhibitions).
Besides delivering a certificate to volunteers who have completed their service, the Commission is studying the possibilities of reinforcing the value of this certificate after the end of the service. This step has to be part of a broader strategy designed to enhance recognition of the educational value of the EVS in economic, social and political circles.
Finally, the Commission is keen to pursue and reinforce the "foundation for the future" initiative, whose objective is to help volunteers capitalise on and exploit the experience they have gained in active life (development of sponsorship, flanking measures).

Decision -C(99) 2410 [not published in the Official Journal]
On 27 July 1999 the Commission adopted a draft decision on the evaluation of the Voluntary European Service Programme.

The Commission points out that an external evaluation of the pilot VES action was carried out for the period November 1997 to May 1998. The evaluators recognised that the time needed to put cooperation in place had been underestimated and that as a result the national projects and structures were not able to participate or cooperate as closely as was expected.
In its conclusions, the external evaluation of the pilot action ascertains that a major choice must be made in future between a more traditional evaluation strategy and a strategy in which the main players - both at European and national level - are involved in the evaluation process right from the start. In the light of the results of the pilot action the Commission intends to choose the second option and to continue to actively involve the different programme players, notably the national structures. It also proposes putting in place a simplified framework in view of the budgetary constraints.
Finally, the Commission emphasises the importance of such an evaluation for the future " Youth " programme.

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