The European Commission is today launching the European Solidarity Corps, just two months after President Juncker announced it and as a first deliverable of the priorities for action identified in the Bratislava Roadmap. As of today, young people between the ages of 18 and 30 can sign up for new opportunities to make an important contribution to society across the EU, and to gain invaluable experience and acquire valuable skills at the start of their career. The Commission is also presenting a series of measures to boost youth employment, improve and modernise education, more investment in skills of young people, and better opportunities to learn and study abroad.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said: "The European Solidarity Corps will create opportunities for young people willing to make a meaningful contribution to society and help show solidarity – something the world and our European Union needs more of. For me, this has always been the very essence of what the European Union is about. It is not the Treaties or industrial or economic interests that bind us together, but our values. And those who work as volunteers are living European values each and every day."
Today's proposals bring together at EU-level for the first time different types of action with a single goal: to improve opportunities for young people:
European Solidarity Corps
With the new European Solidarity Corps, participants will have the opportunity to be placed with a project either for volunteering or for a traineeship, an apprenticeship or a job for a period between 2 and 12 months.
Participants will be able to engage in a broad range of activities such as education, health, social integration, assistance in the provision of food, shelter construction, reception, support and integration of migrants and refugees, environmental protection or prevention of natural disasters. Young people registering for the European Solidarity Corps will need to subscribe to the European Solidarity Corps Mission Statement and its Principles. Each participating organisation will need to adhere to the European Solidarity Corps Charter, setting out the rights and responsibilities during all stages of the solidarity experience.
As of today, interested young people between 17 and 30 can register with the European Solidarity Corps on http://europa.eu/solidarity-corps. The minimum age to participate in a project is 18. The aim is to have 100,000 young people joining the European Solidarity Corps by the end of 2020.
Fighting youth unemployment is a top priority for the EU. Promoting employment is a matter of common concern, shared by all Member States, and the Commission supports their effort through a range of policies and actions.
To this end, the EU Youth Guarantee and the Youth Employment Initiative were launched three years ago. There are now 1.6 million less young unemployed in the EU since 2013 and 900,000 less young people not in employment, education or training. These trends suggest that the Youth Guarantee, backed up by the Youth Employment Initiative, has helped make a difference on the ground. Around 9 million young people took up an offer, the majority of which were offers of employment.
To ensure a full and sustainable implementation of the Youth Guarantee and to roll it out in the regions which need it most, the Commission recently proposed to add an extra €2 billion to continue rolling out the Youth Guarantee across Europe and support an additional 1 million young people by 2020.
Mobility of Apprenticeships
We also need to enhance youth employability. Learning and studying in another country has proven to be of great added value for young people to develop their skills, improve their career chances and enhance European citizenship. More young people, from all layers of society, should profit from these opportunities.
The Commission will therefore launch "ErasmusPro", a new dedicated activity within the Erasmus+ programme to support long-duration placements of apprentices abroad. The Commission will also propose a Quality Framework for Apprenticeships setting out key principles for the design and delivery of apprenticeships at all levels. A demand driven apprenticeships support service will be set up in 2017, supporting countries introducing or reforming apprenticeship systems.
Ensuring high-quality education
As part of today's measures, the Commission is presenting a series of actions to help Member States provide high quality education for all young people, so they acquire the knowledge and skills to participate fully in society and to respond to new opportunities and challenges opened up by globalisation and technological change.
During his 2016 State of the Union address, European Commission President Juncker announced his intention to step up efforts in support of youth. He notably announced the creation of a European Solidarity Corps, as part of a broader policy agenda geared towards the inclusion of young people in society, saying "I cannot and will not accept that Europe is and remains the continent of youth unemployment. I cannot and will not accept that the millennials, Generation Y, might be the first generation in 70 years to be poorer than their parents.[…] We will continue to roll out the Youth Guarantee across Europe, improving the skillset of Europeans and reaching out to the regions and young people most in need."
At the Bratislava Summit of 16 September 2016, the Heads of State and Government of 27 EU Member States also confirmed their commitment to fighting youth unemployment and creating more opportunities for young people. The so-called 'Bratislava Roadmap' establishes concrete deliverables and deadlines in view of 'creating a promising economic future for all, safeguard our way of life and provide better opportunities for youth'. Among these deliverables, the Council committed to 'taking decisions on EU support for Member States in fighting youth unemployment and on enhanced EU programmes dedicated to youth' before the end of the year.
On 4 October 2016, the Commission reported on the main achievements of the existing Youth Guarantee and Youth Employment Initiative (YEI) since their launch in 2013.
MEMO/16/4166: Questions and Answers on Investing in Europe's youth
MEMO/16/4168: Questions and Answers on the European Solidarity Corps
* [updated : 9/12 at 11.00]