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[Luxembourg 2005 Presidency of the Council of the European Union]
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You are here : Home > News > Speeches > January 2005 > Speech by Marie-Josée Jacobs, Minister for Family and Integration, to the European Parliament’s Committee on Culture, Youth, Education, the Media and Sports
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Speech by Marie-Josée Jacobs, Minister for Family and Integration, to the European Parliament’s Committee on Culture, Youth, Education, the Media and Sports

Date of Speech : 17-01-2005

Place : Brussels

Speaker : Marie-Josée Jacobs

Policy area : Education, Youth and Culture Education, Youth and Culture

Mr President,


58 million!

58 million. That is the number of young people aged between 15 and 24 currently residing in the European Union. It is sometimes said that young people are the adults of tomorrow, the future of Europe. But they are also its present. Acting in favour of young people today requires a great deal of work.

In Europe, these efforts should involve all actors, all institutions. In this regard, I am particularly pleased that I was invited to the meeting of your committee today. The European Parliament has become increasingly important within the European Union, and justifiably so, as it is the only European institution elected by universal suffrage. This is why it interests me greatly to explain the major areas on which we will focus our efforts during the six months of the Luxembourg Presidency of the Council of the European Union.

I would like to begin with a subject that is actually the last, chronologically, to be included on the agenda of our Presidency: THE EUROPEAN YOUTH PACT

In October of last year, the four heads of State and Government of France, Germany, Spain and Sweden sent a letter to the president of the European Council proposing the drafting of a new EUROPEAN YOUTH PACT based on the following three areas:

1. Social and professional integration

2. Coherence in the actions of  the Union aimed at young people

3. Demographic policy

On 4 and 5 November 2004, the European Council considered this proposal and the President of the Commission, Mr Barroso, viewed the initiative favourably.

In addition, the Dutch Presidency organised a gathering in Rotterdam of 100 young people from Member States, candidate countries, EFTA/EEA (European Economic Area) countries and from the European Youth Forum. In their "Declaration of Rotterdam", these young people came out very strongly in favour of the idea of a European Youth Pact.

As president of the Council of Europe’s ministers for youth, I also welcome this initiative, which has the merit of placing particular emphasis on young people, especially within the framework of the Lisbon Strategy, to which the four heads of State and Government refer.

In addition, European young people, perhaps even more so than the adults, often demonstrate a lack of confidence in European integration, an apprehension driven by the primarily economic and monetary aspect of European integration. A EUROPEAN YOUTH PACT would also be a strong message to show the young generations that social issues and young people are an important part of European integration.

I put the question of a EUROPEAN YOUTH PACT on the agenda of the Council of Ministers for Youth set for February of this year. The conclusions we will draw will then be submitted to the European Council this spring, one of the major themes of which will be the Lisbon Strategy.

Right now, and without prejudging the synthesis report of the European Commission on the mid-term review of the Lisbon process, the following elements seem important to me in this dossier.

A European youth pact that is made part of the Lisbon Strategy should allow emphasis to be placed on young people within the various objectives of the strategy. In this way, the efforts dedicated to young people will be made more visible and will be able to be strengthened and coordinated more efficiently. At the same time, this approach will allow us to go beyond the mainstream questions about youth policy, as defined in the White Paper "A New Impetus for European Youth". Among the most important topics that should be addressed here are:

  •  Social and professional integration of young people
  • Young people as drivers of growth and competitiveness
  • European mobility of young people
  • European citizenship of young people

Then, the ministers for youth will, within the framework of the tools at their disposal, be able to examine and strengthen the ones that follow the direction the axes of a pact, such as the one described by the four heads of State and Government in their letter of 29 October 2004.

Finally, and this seems very important to me, a pact for young people should also be a pact with young people. In other words, young people must be closely involved in this dossier. Consultation becomes very important here. The purpose of this should be to attract young people to the idea of a pact. In fact, in all public policies, it should be increasingly obvious that convincing the target audience to adhere to the objectives is an important factor in the success of a policy.

It is in this sense that I will initiate discussions with my colleagues within the Council of Ministers for Youth.

But I think it also needs to considered how the European Parliament can take part in the European Youth Pact. It seems to me that your committee, in view of its competence regarding youth, can play a major role in this dossier. There is no doubt that all of us must join efforts to work FOR young people in Europe.

The other important topic of this new year is quite obviously the YOUTH IN ACTION programme. The proposal made by the Commission on 15 July 2004 has been given a preliminary review by the Council and was largely welcomed by the Council of Ministers for youth in November of last year, even if there remain some points of discussion.

We expect to conclude the first reading of this text under the Luxembourg Presidency. In fact, to be able to start off the new programme YOUTH IN ACTION under the best possible conditions in January 2007, it is important to arrive at a decision as quickly as possible. And yet, in view of recent developments, especially within the more global framework of financial perspectives, it will unfortunately not be possible to conclude the first reading during the first six months of this year.

Nevertheless, we will continue discussions within the Council on advancing as far as possible in covering the points on which no definitive agreement has been reached. In fact, certain points merit special attention.

Principally, the question of age will be discussed again: the European Commission proposes that the age range covered by these policies be expanded to 13 at the low end and 30 at the upper end. Lowering the age seems like a very good idea to us. This would follow the national practice of many Member States and it also reflects that adolescence begins earlier in life for young people now than it did a few decades ago. On the surface, raising the age to 30 is more difficult to understand. What are the justifications for raising the upper age? For certain special actions, this seems understandable, especially for Action 2 "Voluntary Service" and, more specifically, the "European Voluntary Intervention Service". Young people who have acquired specific skills during their studies will be able to volunteer to put them to use in an action such as “European Voluntary Intervention Service"?. For the target actions, it would be conceivable to increase the age of potential beneficiaries because it is appropriate for that type of action. But in general it is difficult for us to see the upper age limit set at 30 years.

In addition, support for the European Youth Forum seems to pose problems for certain Member States. Nevertheless, we welcome this action within the programme, which should allow the European Youth Forum to be established. This organisation, which represents the national youth councils from all over Europe, plays an important role in representing the interest of young people. It also allows the Union to have a single point of contact with young people.

We also welcome the new Action 5 of the programme "Promoting European cooperation in Youth policy". This European cooperation for young people has become increasingly important on our agenda during the past few years, since the publication of the White Paper "A New Impetus for European Youth" and the decision of the Council to implement an open means of coordination with young people. I will return to this open method later on. Within the framework of the new programme "YOUTH IN ACTION", this Action 5 will favour support of projects and actions whose objectives resemble those of the Open Coordination Method, and which in turn strengthen it. Of special importance are those actions aiming at strengthening the European citizenship of young people, and we encourage all those who engage in a European cooperation working in this direction.

Overall, the Member States were very favourable to the Commission proposal during the Council of Ministers held in November 2004. This is why we intend to advance towards a first reading of the text.

At this level, close collaboration with the European Parliament is of particular interest to us, which is why I have met with the President of  your Commission Mr. Sifunakis. My colleagues have also had the opportunity to speak in more detail with Mme Groener on the subject of the action programme YOUTH IN ACTION. These talks confirmed our determination to cooperate successfully with your institution.

Finally, these six months will be an opportunity for our Presidency to continue to address in detail the open coordination method in the area of Youth. When the Council of Ministers adopted the open communication method in the area of Youth in June 2002, it acknowledged the intention of the European Commission to produce a report on the implementation of this method. This has been done since October of last year. In its written evaluation of the open coordination method, the European Commission presents a positive assessment of the first cycle of application of this method and considers that it has allowed growing consultation and participation of young people in political debates, increased visibility of actions in favour of young people and, among other things, it has put in place a European Youth Portal.

Nevertheless, the Commission draws attention to a number of points that merit examination:

The common objectives for the four priorities defined in 2002 have been adopted. Where do we go from here? Should new priorities be defined? Which ones?

  • To ensure that young people adhere to this method, its implementation must be efficient.
  • There will be an evaluation of the balance between efficiency and flexibility in the open coordination method in the area of youth, where there are now neither national action plans nor evaluation indicators.
  • The Commission emphasises the importance of consultation with young people, which is both quantitatively and qualitatively important.

Based on this communication, we propose to the Council a resolution that assesses the implementation of the open coordination method in the area of youth. In this resolution, we propose on the one hand that consideration be given to new priorities to be implemented in the area of youth. This question of new priorities will also be the object of an exchange of views during the Council of Ministers for Youth in May of this year.

On the other hand, we propose that the Council define the methods of implementation of the open coordination method. This specification will be achieved by defining:

A starting point, meaning establishing an assessment and a situational analysis in which the description is made according to the method defined by each Member State.

Based on this analysis, each Member State will adopt the priority lines of action according to its national situation.

After these measures have been implemented, a progress analysis is carried out in line with the starting point.

This process should include consultation with young people and their organisations.

We think that this is an original way of making the open coordination method more efficient while maintaining the flexibility necessary so that the Member States can make use of it in the best way given their individual situations.

But we would also like to go into more detail on the common objectives that have already been adopted. It is, in fact, important to work on these common objectives, to define them, to consider their implementation.

Regarding the PARTICIPATION OF YOUNG PEOPLE IN REPRESENTATIVE DEMOCRACY we propose a resolution to the Council. Indeed the participation of young people in representative democracy is of fundamental importance. The institutions of representative democracy are a major foundation of our society. Yet, we realise that young people are less and less attracted to these institutions, and have less confidence in them. This is a dangerous trend. This is why we propose that this common objective be specified to provide Member States with more precise indications for implementation.

The basic idea of the resolution is that there is a lack of confidence among young people vis-à-vis representative democracy, which is not just a problem of young people, but also of society as a whole. It is then not just to young people that we must turn to find solutions, but to the institutions of democracy themselves.

This resolution will be addressed at both the national and European level. In fact, we recall the modest voter turnout in certain countries during the recent direct elections for the European Parliament. In this area, there could be very fruitful collaboration with your institution. And we would all be winners in this!

A third resolution we are proposing to the Council is on the priority "Information for Young People". The information for young people is above all a means, a means of citizenship. Solid information helps young people make the choices they will need to make in life, at all levels and on a daily basis. That is why this is so important. In this area, we propose increased networking at European level to achieve European standards of information for young people. This should, in the long run, allow young Europeans to make the most of a European youth label which they can immediately recognise.

During the Council of European Ministers for Youth in November of 2004, we adopted the common objectives for the priorities "Voluntary Youth Activities" and "Greater understanding and knowledge of youth". During our Presidency, we intend to take advantage of certain events that will take place in Luxembourg to deepen the discussion on common objectives. And so, during the "Youth Event" that will take place in Luxembourg between 23 and 26 of April of this year, young people who have been invited to Luxembourg from all the countries of the Union will have the opportunity to work on the common objectives of "Voluntary Activities" and their implementation. In addition, the last working afternoon will be dedicated to a meeting in conjunction with the directorate generals for youth of the Member States and the European Commission.

In June a conference entitled "dialogue between actors in the area of youth" will be held in Luxembourg. This conference will focus on Objective 4 of the priority "Greater understanding and knowledge of youth". We will invite researchers, youth representatives and youth administrators to Luxembourg to produce models of ways to create better production and knowledge networks. The underlying idea of this conference is that not only researchers, but also everyone active in the area of youth has important knowledge, and each has a different point of view. It is important to create networks that allow this knowledge to emerge, for the benefit of youth policy and work done in favour of youth, and finally, for the benefit of the young people themselves.

There, Mr President, MEPs, in a few words you have the basis on which our Presidency will work in the area of youth policy, outlined ex ante of course. But if there is the desire on your part, I am quite willing to meet again at the end of our Presidency to assess the actions taken during these six months.

Thank you for your kind attention. Please feel free to ask questions or add to the discussion.

Thank you!

This page was last modified on : 29-01-2005

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