What is the idea behind the European Solidarity Corps?
The European Union is built on solidarity: solidarity between its citizens, solidarity across borders between its Member States, and solidarity in its action inside and outside the Union. Solidarity is a shared value which is strongly felt throughout European society.
As President Juncker said in his 2016 State of the Union address announcing the creation of the Corps: "We often show solidarity most readily when faced with emergencies. When the Portuguese hills were burning, Italian planes doused the flames. When floods cut off the power in Romania, Swedish generators turned the lights back on. When thousands of refugees arrived on Greek shores, Slovakian tents provided shelter. In the same spirit, the Commission is proposing today to set up a European Solidarity Corps."
The aim of the European Solidarity Corps is to give young people the chance to take part in a range of solidarity activities that address challenging situations across the EU. Participation will not only benefit young people, but also assist national and local authorities, non-governmental organisations and companies in their efforts to cope with various challenges and crises.
What is the European Solidarity Corps?
Financed by the Commission, organisations working in solidarity-related activities, whether a local authority, non-governmental organisation or company, will be able to recruit young people to volunteer or carry out a work placement, internship or apprenticeship or training with them, provided they meet the criteria for becoming a host organisation and subscribe to the Charter of the European Solidarity Corps.
The Commission is establishing two types of youth placement as part of the Solidarity Corps. Young people between the ages of 18-30 can take part for a period of two to twelve months in either:
- Volunteer placements - offering full-time voluntary opportunities, with a grant; or
- Occupational placements - providing opportunities to find a job, traineeships, or apprenticeships in a wide range of sectors.
What kind of activities will be covered by the Corps?
Participants in the European Solidarity Corps will have the opportunity 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 (but excluding immediate response to disasters which requires more specialised skills and training).
The European Solidarity Corps participants will be matched with non-governmental organisations (NGO), local and national authorities or private companies that are looking for support in their activities.
A participant can be engaged to be placed with a project either for volunteering (volunteering strand) – or for a traineeship, an apprenticeship or a job (occupational strand). Whichever case, the duration is between 2 and 12 months.
Who can register for the European Solidarity Corps?
Anyone who is between 17 and 30 years old, and who is an EU citizen or legally residing in the EU can register for the European Solidarity Corps. The minimum age to participate in a solidarity project is 18.
Under the occupational strand, interested young people must be citizens of the EU or Norway or Iceland. Under the volunteering strand, in this first phase of the European Solidarity Corps, young people can register if they are legally resident in the EU or in Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Turkey or the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, or if they hold the nationality of these countries.
The European Solidarity Corps is open to all young people, whether currently in education or training, employed or unemployed. What is crucial is the motivation.
Young people who register for the European Solidarity Corps will need to subscribe to the European Solidarity Corps Mission Statement and its Principles. These are based on core EU values, such as solidarity, respect for human dignity and human rights, and the promotion of a fair and equal society in which pluralism, non-discrimination, tolerance, justice, solidarity and equality prevail. Participants will contribute to enhancing solidarity between people, while respecting their cultures and their traditions.
How does it work?
Registration is easy and can be done on a dedicated webpage via the European Youth Portal on: www.europa.eu/solidarity-corps
When registering, participants will be asked to provide personal data, to specify the areas of interest, and to choose whether they are signing up for volunteering, for occupational activities, or both.
Does registration guarantee a placement with a project?
No, registering does not guarantee a placement with a project, since this will inevitably depend on the availability of projects and the interest of candidates. As a general principle, the more open people are towards different types of activity and choice of countries, the greater the chance to get a placement.
Non-EU nationals – although eligible to register under the volunteering strand – may not necessarily have all the rights or permissions that are needed to reside in another EU country for a placement. It is the responsibility of the participating organisation to ensure that such rights and permissions are in place for any person that they wish to engage for a placement with a project.
Can participants choose what organisation to work for?
Once participants have registered, organisations will be able to find their profile as they look for candidates for solidarity projects. Participants are free to decline any offer made by an organisation.
Can organisations charge participants money for taking them on with a project?
No. Neither participating organisations nor intermediate organisations may request or require any financial contribution or fee related to the participation in the project itself from the European Solidarity Corps member.
What costs are covered?
For a volunteering placement, living expenses such as food, accommodation and pocket money, as well as travel and insurance will normally be covered.
For occupational activities (a job, a traineeship or an apprenticeship), there will be an employment contract and financial support to travel (travel and accommodation to do an interview, relocation allowance and return travel allowance). In addition, a contribution to the costs of the recognition of qualifications, in case they are necessary for taking up the job in the other country, could be made. Actual cost coverage may vary from case to case.
In the case of a job, the wage conditions will be set in accordance with laws, regulations and collective agreements that are in force in the country where the job is situated.
For traineeships and apprenticeships there will be a subsistence allowance. For placements covered by an employment contract, the participant will be covered by the public health insurance scheme of the country of placement.
What about social security and insurance coverage of participants?
For an occupational activity (a job, apprenticeship or traineeship), there will be an employment contract and therefore national labour and social protection laws will apply and ensure access to the national public health insurance. Additional insurance e.g. to cover third party liability and accidents, will need to be catered for by the participant.
For a volunteering activity, participants are provided with insurance covering medical costs, life, evacuation and repatriation, third party liability, loss/theft of documents and travel tickets.
What kind of activities will European Solidarity Corps participants be involved in?
European Solidarity Corps participants can be offered deployments to contribute to a wide array of activities. They could be linked to services of general interest, and could cover areas such as:
- Citizenship and democratic participation
- Environment and natural protection
- Health and wellbeing
- Education and Training
- Employment and entrepreneurship
- Creativity and culture
- Physical Education/Sport
- Social assistance and welfare
- Reception and integration of refugees and migrants
- Disaster prevention and recovery
Immediate disaster response is excluded – for instance fighting forest fires or urban search and rescue – because these activities require highly trained specialists. However, for instance if a rural community wants to minimise the risk of forest fires by weeding out the underbrush, European Solidarity Corps participants could make a valuable contribution.
Where can European Solidarity Corps members be placed?
Placements are possible in all 28 EU Member States, and depending on which EU programme funds a particular project, other countries could come into question as well (for instance Iceland, Norway, Turkey, Liechtenstein or the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia).
What kind of certificate will you issue?
Participants in the European Solidarity Corps will be entitled to receive the European Solidarity Corps certificate once they have finalised a placement. It will prove their involvement in a European-wide undertaking to address societal challenges and their commitment to make a change. This commitment, the openness towards other people and cultures and the skills gained in the European Solidarity Corps activities, will also attract the attention of employers who look for young people with such a profile.
What organisations can participate?
A large variety of organisations such as non-governmental organisations, civil society organisations, national and local authorities could become a participating organisation. All organisations will have to comply with high quality standards and subscribe to the Charter of the European Solidarity Corps.
Organisations that are already registered with the European Voluntary Service are in principle automatically accredited.
Under the occupational strand, organisations and companies may choose to go through an intermediary, such as a public employment service.
After having been authorised in line with each EU funding programme, the participating organisation can look for potential employees, trainees, apprentices or volunteers for their solidarity activities.
Each participating Organisations will need to subscribe to the European Solidarity Corps Mission Statement and its Principles, and to adhere to the European Solidarity Corps Charter, setting out the rights and responsibilities during all stages of the solidarity experience.
How will the European Solidarity Corps be financed?
The European Solidarity Corps is financed through existing EU funding programmes via calls for proposals, using existing financial resources from the Erasmus+ Programme, the EU Programme for Employment and Social Innovation (EaSI), the LIFE programme, the Asylum and Migration Fund, the Health programme, the Europe for Citizens programme, the European Regional Development Fund and the Agricultural Fund for Rural Development. Participating organisations will be able to apply for funding from the programmes; the awarding of grants will happen in accordance with the evaluation rules of each programme.
When will the European Solidarity Corps be implemented and what outcome is expected?
On 7 December 2016, registration opened for interested young people on the European Youth Portal: www.europa.eu/solidarity-corps
Matching between participants and participating organisations for placements is expected to start in the spring of 2017, with the first deployments by June 2017.
The objective is to have 100,000 young people joining the European Solidarity Corps by the end of 2020.