Member of the European Commission for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth
Speech: Protecting young people in the crisis
EU Youth Conference-Opening Ceremony/Dublin
11 March 2013
Dear Minister Fitzgerald,
Dear Minister O'Dowd,
Dear youth delegates,
I'm delighted we have this opportunity to come together today in Dublin for the EU Youth Conference on Social Inclusion.
I would like to thank the Irish Presidency for the excellent job they have done in organising the event. I would also like to thank the European Youth Forum for their valuable cooperation.
This Conference will complete the first phase of our Structured Dialogue cycle on social inclusion – which is particularly relevant in these difficult times.
With youth unemployment now standing at 23.6% in the EU, some 5.7 million young people under 25 are unemployed in the EU; and at work, young people are strongly over-represented in temporary jobs. The EU Youth Report pointed to the wider social consequences of the crisis, with more young people at risk of poverty and social exclusion, or even, in more extreme cases, acute health problems or homelessness.
Over these next couple of days, we will have a chance to hear more about social inclusion and examples of good practice with youth work. The Irish Presidency has put youth work and its contribution to social inclusion high on the agenda. Youth work can bring solutions. Youth workers are in the Treaty referred to as 'socio-educational instructors'. No layman's term, but it does point to the value of youth workers, in guiding young people to find their place in society, and in learning new skills. These are elements that harness young people's inclusion.
Tackling youth unemployment is a key priority of the EU and is at the centre of our Europe 2020 strategy. For this, I am working closely with the Member States, in the context of our proposals on 'Rethinking Education', on educational reform to ensure that our schools equip young people with the skills they need for sustainable employment.
Last December, the Commission launched a Youth Employment Package. As part of this, we proposed youth guarantees to ensure that young people are in employment, education or training within four months of leaving school.
It is worth noting that the introduction of a youth guarantee was requested by young people during our first Structured Dialogue cycle on youth employment.
We can all be pleased that Ministers of Employment have already endorsed the Youth Guarantee. The youth guarantee is an urgent response to the alarming levels of youth unemployment, and I call on Member States to translate this agreement into concrete action as swiftly as possible.
I see a clear role for youth work to contribute to the implementation of the youth guarantees, because of youth workers' proximity to young people, including those out of reach of schools and employment offices – the so-called NEETs, the young people not in employment, education or training.
Early last month EU leaders proposed that € 6 billion be made available to combat youth unemployment in the new EU budget. This still needs to be approved by the European Parliament, but the commitment is there.
Youth policy and youth work can have an important role to play in the delivery of new measures and in ensuring that young people facing social exclusion can benefit from them.
We must now identify the right tools to maximise the potential of youth work as a means of inclusion. In that light, I look forward to the outcomes of this Conference, and the Structured Dialogue on Social Inclusion.
Review of the Structured Dialogue
This is the seventh EU Youth Conference since we embarked on the process of the Structured Dialogue.
The Structured Dialogue has developed successfully and is coming of age. But we must continue improving it, taking advantage of our experiences and the findings in the EU Youth Report.
In response to the Council Resolution adopted during the Cypriot Presidency, the Commission will organise a review of the dialogue in 2013, asking the main actors to draw up recommendations on the dialogue's content, follow-up, outreach and visibility.
We will ask the National Working Groups to kick-start the review in May during European Youth Week.
Then, later in the year, we will invite youth representatives and policy-makers from all Member States to develop the discussion further and conclude on it. The goal will be to reach joint recommendations for Youth Ministers to agree upon.
I am confident that this review will enable us, halfway through the life span of our EU Youth Strategy, to bring improvement. The Structured Dialogue has kicked off well and I am sure that this review will enable it to mature.
The Structured Dialogue is a unique and indispensable tool in the Commission's ability to listen to the voice of youth in pursuing policy decisions, and today this means listening to you. The outcome of this conference will be another injection in the overall cure to overcome the crisis.
I wish you a successful and enjoyable event.