Through the programmes and activities envisaged to take place in the framework of this landmark year, young people from a wide variety of backgrounds will be given an active voice and an enhanced role in shaping EU policies and in contributing to the building of a green, digital and more inclusive future.
Background and support from EU leaders
In September 2021, the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen delivered the State of the Union Address, in the context of which the President notably reiterated Robert Schuman’s words: “Europe needs a soul, an ideal, and the political will to serve this ideal”. Within the State of the Union speech, Ursula von der Leyen proposed 2022 as the European Year of Youth, emphasizing that the young people are an important source of hope and inspiration for Europe’s recovery in these challenging times. Therefore, in October 2021 a public survey was launched by the EU, in order to gather ideas for the upcoming European Year of Youth.
On the 6th of December 2021, the European Parliament and the Council reached the political agreement according to which 2022 would be designated as the European Year of Youth. The agreement was welcomed and endorsed by the European Commission the following day. The EU Decision from 22nd of December 2021 reiterated that “young people are the architects of their own lives, contribute to positive change in society and enrich the Union’s ambitions”.
The labelling of 2022 as the European Year of Youth was also reiterated by President Macron, within the December 2021 Press Conference Speech on the presentation of the French Presidency of the Council of the European Union, which outlined a set of proposals on the enhancing of youth-oriented programmes.
With the occasion of the International Youth Day 2021 and ahead of the European Year of Youth, President of the Council Charles Michel outlined: “Let's not forget how the young generation has been impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. I admire your resilience throughout these challenging times”.
Furthermore, young people across the EU were given an active voice by the European Commission within the process of the adoption of the Interreg programme for 2021-2027, in order to shape the European Territorial Cooperation more in line with young people’s expectations and with a view to bridge the gap between policymakers, regional development practitioners and the younger generations. As a result, the topic of youth engagement is currently increasingly mainstreamed across Interreg programmes.
What are the “European Years”?
The concept of “European Year” was introduced in the year 1983 and offers the opportunity to raise awareness on specific issues, in addition to fostering enhanced dialogue and debate in the EU member states regarding certain topics. The theme for the “European Year” is proposed by the European Commission and sends strong political messages on national, regional and local levels regarding the importance of enhanced support for the proposed aspect. The increased support and attention involve not only increased dialogue on the topic, but also additional funding and enhanced engagement of the chosen theme into the policy-making at all EU levels.
The “European Years” concept may not occur every year. For example, 2021 was designated the European Year of Rail, while previously to it 2018 was labelled as the European Year for Cultural Heritage.
Added value for the European youth
As part of the European Year of Youth initiative, a wide range of activities and events are planned to take place, in addition to the launching of new programmes aimed at empowering young people. For instance, the 9th cycle of the EU Youth Dialogue will be opened by the European Youth Conference, organized in Strasbourg under the auspices French Presidency of the Council of the European Union. The European Youth Conference will bring together young people from across EU, who will be given voice on topics such as “Sustainable Green Europe” and “Inclusive Societies”. Also, the Youth Conference will further contribute to bridging the gap between young people and the policymakers on local, regional and European level.Furthermore, the European Year of Youth will give young people an active voice and role within the Conference on the Future of Europe, a unique opportunity aimed at fostering debate on the opportunities and challenges faced by the European Union.
Activities and events that will take place in the framework of the European Year of Youth will be organized through concerted efforts by the European Commission, civil society organisations and national coordinators from each member state, while the European Parliament will oversee the implementation of the initiatives.
In the framework of this year, youth policies will be mainstreamed at all levels, in line with the EU Youth Policy Cooperation for 2019-2027 and the 11 European Youth Goals. Furthermore, Tirana has been designated the Youth Capital for the year 2022, decision which sends a strong political message regarding the enhanced engaging of the young people coming from candidate countries.
Addressing youth unemployment
Research shows that the current youth unemployment problem existing at EU level is a direct consequence of the 2008 monetary crisis.
In the framework of the 2022 European Year of Youth, enhanced measures will be adopted in order to address the issue of unemployment among young people amid the ongoing pandemic. The new initiatives will build upon previously adopted measures aimed at tackling youth unemployment.
For instance, in July 2020 the European Commission launched the Youth Employment Support (YES) package, aimed at supporting young people’s efforts to become integrated into the labour market. Furthermore, the Youth Employment Support reinforced the Youth Guarantee, previously launched in 2013 and which sets targets such as linking young people’s competences with the companies’ and SME’s needs, providing tailor-made counselling and mentoring. Furthermore, the Youth Employment Support will help young people to acquire skills and adapt to green and digital jobs.
The European Commission proposed a new ALMA initiative (Aim, Learn, Master, Achieve), to be implemented under the European Social Fund Plus, which proposes a cross-border mobility scheme for young people coming from disadvantaged backgrounds, who are not engaged in employment, education or training.
Moreover, the designation of 2022 as the European Year of Youth builds upon the EU’s recovery plan. In the framework of the Next GenerationEU, the EU aims to contribute to the building of a more resilient Europe and to empower youth through a set of measures, among which: offering of loans and grants to young entrepreneurs, enhanced support for education and entrepreneurship, encouraging of young people to specialize in science and technology related fields. To this extent, the Recovery and Resilience Facility represents the instrument situated at the heart of Next GenerationEU and it aims to mitigate the social and economic consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic.