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Brussels, 14 April 2003

The Commission proposes common objectives to make young people more involved and better informed

How can we encourage young people to pursue active citizenship and boost their real participation in democratic life? How can we give them better access to high-quality information and advice? Following a proposal by Viviane Reding, the Member of the Commission responsible for education, culture and youth, the College of Commissioners is placing before the Member States a set of objectives, to be translated into practical action. These two themes of participation and information are among the priorities for enhanced Community-level cooperation as set out in the Commission's 2001 White Paper (Cf. IP/01/1619, 21 November 2001).

"It is not inevitable that young people should be insufficiently involved in democratic and civic life. Public policy has to take better account of the commitment many of them show to causes such as combating racism, working for peace, dialogue between peoples and social inclusion and their willingness to play a practical part, e.g. through voluntary service. The European Commission, along with the European Parliament and the Council, has decided to strengthen Community-level cooperation in this area in order to improve young people's scope for participating and obtaining information. This is the thrust of the objectives we are proposing today and I call on the Member States to endorse them and act accordingly," declared Viviane Reding when this Commission proposal was adopted.

The White Paper on youth policy had pinpointed four priority themes, which were approved by the Council of youth ministers last year: participation, information, voluntary service and greater understanding of youth. After consulting with the Member States and youth organisations on the existing legal framework and on what had already been done, the Commission is proposing a set of operational objectives which should allow progress on the first two priorities. This also follows up the objectives of the Commission's White Paper on Governance and supplements the efforts made by the Commission and the Council of education ministers in response to the challenge of a knowledge-based Europe as envisaged in the conclusions of the Lisbon European Council.

These objectives will be put into practice by the "open method of coordination": by pooling good practice and regularly monitoring progress. An assessment will be made in 2005 to take stock of what has been achieved. It is possible that some of the action proposed is already being taken in the Member States.

The very point of this exercise is to benefit from such experience, good or bad, in order to achieve better standards of information and participation in all Member States, including the new members of the European Union.

Improving civic and democratic participation and enhancing its value

How can we encourage young people to play a more active part in community life? The Commission's main proposals to the Member States are:

  • to support initiatives to let young people become involved in solving problems at local level;

  • to give greater recognition and support to the work on the ground by parents, social workers and other relay persons.

How can we increase young people's acceptance of the mechanisms of representative democracy?

  • Develop regular and structured dialogue between political bodies and young people, e.g. through national and regional youth councils.

  • Ensure that young people are more present in the electoral processes: encourage them to register as electors and to cast their votes; make the political parties more open to young people; make sure there are more young people in the elected bodies.

How can we recognise and boost the value of young people's involvement in democratic and civic life?

  • Sharpen the focus in school curricula on the importance of participating and the opportunities to do so.

  • Take more account of young people's civic and political commitments in their training and subsequent occupational pathways.

  • Make people more aware of the benefits of strong youth participation and combat prejudice against the young.

Better information for young people: a precondition for better participation and for the development of their potential as individuals and citizens

First of all, the Commission proposes improving young people's access to information services, which as yet are inadequate and poorly coordinated. This could be done, for example, by

  • promoting "one-stop-shop" general information services with links to the various tiers of government (municipalities, regions, state) and to European-level services, with a major role for Internet portals linked to the EU's future Youth portal;

  • providing local information services which are free and accessible, especially to disadvantaged young people.

The information available to young people often seems to be of mediocre quality, to be inadequately targeted and to make insufficient use of new communication technologies.

The Commission therefore suggests

  • producing a code of quality standards for information and advice services for young people;

  • preparing young people for greater use of the Internet, SMS, videos and the cinema as sources of information and advice, in addition to more conventional channels.

Finally, the Commission suggests that young people be more involved in producing and distributing information for their peers. To this end, the authorities could, for example:

  • make arrangements to encourage young people to distribute information and advice, in the school, youth centres, the media, etc.

  • work more closely with youth organisations.

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