What is the idea behind the European Solidarity Corps?
Solidarity is a shared value within the European Union – between its citizens, Member States, and in its action inside and outside the Union.
As President Juncker said in his 2016 State of the Union address announcing the creation of the European Solidarity 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 not only benefits young people's personal development, active involvement in society and employability, but also assists non-governmental organisations, public bodies and companies in their efforts to cope with societal and other challenges.
Why does the European Solidarity Corps need a legal base?
The European Solidarity Corps is currently implemented under eight different programmes, each one with its own legal basis, objectives and budget (Erasmus+ Programme, EU Programme for Employment and Social Innovation (EaSI), LIFE programme, Asylum and Migration Fund, Health programme, the Europe for Citizens programme, European Regional Development Fund, Agricultural Fund for Rural Development; more information in this factsheet).
A self-standing legal base will provide one comprehensive funding instrument with a clear set of objectives. This will help consolidate the European Solidarity Corps, by increasing its coherence, impact and cost-effectiveness, and create even more opportunities for young people. When launching the European Solidarity Corps in December 2016, the Commission committed to presenting a legislative proposal by spring 2017.
What will be the budget of the European Solidarity Corps?
The European Commission proposes to set the overall budget available for the implementation of the European Solidarity Corps at €341,500,000 in current prices, for the period from 1 January 2018 until 31 December 2020. This is enshrined in the legal base and will guarantee a stable budget for this initiative for the next three years.
Costs for placements vary depending on their duration and the country where they take place, e.g. for a six months volunteering placement the EU will provide between €3400 and €6500.
Which organisational structure will be in charge?
In the current first phase, the European Solidarity Corps is financed and managed by eight different EU programmes. With the new proposal, the European Solidarity Corps will be implemented by the European Commission, the Erasmus+ National Agencies in the Member States and the Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency (EACEA).
The Erasmus+ National Agencies already responsible for managing the youth strand of the Erasmus+ programme will be in charge of implementing most of the actions of the European Solidarity Corps: assessing requests from organisations applying for a European Solidarity Corps Quality Label, awarding EU grants for placements and projects, providing training and support, organising networking activities, or promoting the European Solidarity Corps at national level.
The European Commission, supported by the Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency, will manage horizontal services to European Solidarity Corps participants, e.g. online training, online-linguistic support and insurance. The Agency will also attribute the quality label to certain types of stakeholders (e.g. Europe-wide networks, international organisations, or bodies in charge of implementing national schemes or EU shared management funds, etc.), which could also apply for funding to the Agency.
In addition, a newly created European Solidarity Corps Resource Centre will support the implementing bodies and the participating organisations, in particular for the certification and documentation of skills acquired by young people during their activities.
What will be the role of employment services?
Labour market actors, such as public and private employment services, but also Chambers of Commerce, will be able to contribute to the European Solidarity Corps by facilitating the fulfilment of job and traineeship placements, i.e. matching vacant positions with suitable candidates. Their support will be built upon existing structures.
Public Employment Services in particular have ample labour market intelligence, i.e. access to job vacancies, both in-country (via their own database) and cross-border (via EURES). They could, in addition, help reach out to employers to promote the European Solidarity Corps as well as to young people to encourage them to register. They can also provide post-placement support to European Solidarity Corps participants to ensure that their placement acts as a stepping stone into the labour market.
Labour market actors, including public and private employment services, will be able to apply individually or jointly for grants via the Erasmus+ National Agencies.
Will the supported activities remain the same?
Currently, the European Solidarity Corps offers placements for volunteering, a traineeship, or a job for individual participants. With the new legal base, in addition to supporting young people in carrying out volunteering activities for up to 12 months, traineeship placements for 2–6 months, and job placements in compliance with relevant national legislation for 2–12 months, the European Solidarity Corps will also provide participants the opportunity to set up their own solidarity projects or to volunteer as a group. Special attention is given to participants from disadvantaged backgrounds. A series of support measures (e.g. training, insurance, provision of a certificate) will be available for all types of placements and projects.
What is a volunteering team?
A new feature of the European Solidarity Corps under this proposal are activities by volunteering teams. These will allow groups of 10 to 40 young people from different participating countries to volunteer together for community service projects for a period between two weeks and two months. Examples include restoring cultural heritage sites damaged by natural disasters, catering for species threatened by extinction, organising educational activities in refugee camps, etc. Despite their shorter duration, these activities will be valuable both for the participants and communities.
What is a solidarity project?
Solidarity projects are local initiatives, set up and carried out by groups of European Solidarity Corps participants, lasting between two and twelve months. They are youth-led volunteering activities where European Solidarity Corps participants take an active role in designing and implementing their own ideas for the benefit of their local communities, in any solidarity-related areas.
Contrary to volunteering placements, the activities are typically project-based, with European Solidarity Corps participants autonomously defining the amount of time spent in carrying out their tasks in relation to the goals and scheduled deliveries of the project.
Solidarity projects typically happen in the country of residence of the European Solidarity Corps participants. Similar to the in-country volunteering placements, this gives an incentive for the participation of disadvantaged young people, who may encounter difficulties engaging in cross-border placements, but still want to contribute to society.
What are networking activities?
Networking activities aim at creating a sense of belonging to the European Solidarity Corps, accompanying its implementation and enhancing its effectiveness, impact and visibility. These activities could be related e.g. to informing newcomers about the European Solidarity Corps, to consultation fora, the exchange of good practice, to events for post-placement support or the establishment of alumni networks.
MATCHING AND PLACEMENTS
Who can register for the European Solidarity Corps?
Anyone who is between 17 and 30 years old, and who is a national or legally residing in a participating country can register for the European Solidarity Corps. The minimum age to participate in a solidarity project is 18. The draft Regulation covers EU Member States; participation of other countries will be possible on the basis of bilateral agreements.
Currently, in its first phase, the geographic scope of the European Solidarity Corps covers the 28 EU Member States, and depending on which EU programme funds a particular project, other countries may also be involved (more information in this factsheet).
Non-EU nationals may not necessarily have all the rights or permissions 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.
Young people who register for the European Solidarity Corps will need to subscribe to the European Solidarity Corps Mission Statement and its Principles. Registration is easy and can be done on a dedicated webpage via the European Youth Portal on: www.europa.eu/solidarity-corps.
Will the registration guarantee a placement?
All registered young people can take part in a general online training and in the community-building activities that may be taking place in their local communities. Registering does not guarantee a placement with a project, however. This depends on the budget, the availability of projects and the specific interest of the candidates.
The proposal does foresee solidarity projects, allowing young people who have registered to take action themselves and implement their ideas for solidarity at local level, instead of waiting for a placement.
What are the requirements for organisations?
Participating organisations will be carefully assessed (by Erasmus+ National Agencies or by the Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency, depending on their profile) and must commit to respecting the European Solidarity Corps Charter in which they pledge to foster the personal and professional development of European Solidarity Corps participants, guarantee safe and decent working conditions, provide adequate training and support to equip participants with the skills needed to carry out their placement. A new quality label for organisations providing European Solidarity Corps placements is foreseen.
How does the matching process work?
When young people register for the European Solidarity Corps via the European Youth Portal, beyond providing information about their education and employment experience and personal interests, they will also be able to indicate which type of projects they would like to be involved in, in which countries they would like to be placed, and when they are available to participate. They can choose between the types of placements and can express their interest to be involved in specific solidarity areas.
When registering, young people can also highlight the specific experience and knowledge they would bring to the European Solidarity Corps, e.g. in working with refugees, children, elderly or disabled people, teaching, first aid, in media, music, arts, building/construction, engineering, project management or other fields.
Organisations will have the possibility to choose from candidates whose motivation, interests and skills correspond most closely to their needs. Participants are free to accept or decline any offer made by an organisation.
What costs are covered by the different types of placements?
For a volunteering placement, living expenses such as food, accommodation and a pocket money of up to €155 per month, as well as travel and insurance will be covered.
Job placements will be based on an employment contract and wages will be set in accordance with national laws, regulations and collective agreements in force in the country where the job is carried out.
Traineeship placements will be based on a written agreement and remunerated by the host organisation. The principles outlined in the Quality Framework for Traineeships will guide the traineeship placements offered under the Corps.
In addition to remuneration, financial support for travel is foreseen both for job and traineeship placements. A financial top-up is foreseen for disadvantaged young people to cover any necessary additional expenses. The Corps will also cover certain costs incurred by participating organisations. This may include a financial contribution to staff-related costs, or specific training and mentorship.
Can organisations charge participants money for taking them on?
No. No individual or entity may request any financial contribution or fee from a participant, related to being selected for participation in a project.
What about insurance and social security coverage?
The proposal foresees that participants receive complementary health and accident insurance for insurance-related expenses which are not already covered by the European Health Insurance Card or other insurance schemes in which participants may be enrolled.
With regard to jobs and traineeships and the related social security, certain specificities apply in accordance with the national laws, regulations and collective agreements of the country where the placement is carried out.
Will there be language support?
Yes. European Solidarity Corps participants who accept an offer for a cross-border placement will be given access to an online language course allowing them to assess and improve their competences in the foreign language they will use to carry out their placement abroad.
What kind of certificate will participants receive?
Participants in the European Solidarity Corps will receive the European Solidarity Corps certificate once they have completed a placement. The certificate will identify and document the knowledge, skills and competences acquired during the placement.
When is the Regulation on the European Solidarity Corps expected to enter into force?
The draft Regulation now needs to be adopted by the European Parliament and the Council before it can enter into force, and the Commission proposes that this should be the case as of 1 January 2018. In their Joint Declaration, the EU institutions committed to delivering on the proposal by the end of this year.