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Engage – Connect – Empower: The programme for Germany’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union in the field of youth

The impacts of the Coronavirus pandemic figure high up on the agenda of Germany’s EU Council Presidency, too. Managing the crisis, enabling a sustainable economic recovery, and maintaining social cohesion are at the heart of the programme. The pandemic-induced crisis is also reflected in the activities and Council documents relating to youth. In times of crisis, young people are particularly vulnerable yet are also important drivers of change. It is hence vital to ensure their continued participation, guarantee protection for young people, and assist them in developing as individuals.

Implementation of the EU Youth Strategy

Germany’s slogan for its EU Council Presidency is ‘Together for Europe’s recovery’. The focal point of the youth-related activities under the Presidency is the EU Youth Strategy 2019-2027, the framework for youth policy co-operation across the European Union. Its three core areas of action, Engage – Connect – Empower, will benefit from Germany’s input during its Presidency.

Engage: The German Presidency also marks the beginning of a new cycle of the EU Youth Dialogue. Under the motto 'Europe for YOUth - YOUth for Europe': Space for Democracy and Participation’, until the end of 2021, attention will be given to European Youth Goal number 9 (‘Space and Participation for All’). As part of the EU Youth Dialogue, an EU youth conference has been scheduled for early October 2020 as an in-person meeting, albeit on a smaller scale owing to pandemic-related restrictions. EU youth conferences are held during each EU Council Presidency, bringing together representatives of the younger generation and of the competent minstries for a dialogue on the opinions and suggestions of young people that are gathered under the EU Youth Dialogue. The outcomes of the EU youth conferences and the Youth Dialogue provide input for the political process at the EU level and in the Member States.
The EU youth conference in October is organised by the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth (BMFSFJ) in co-operation with the German Federal Youth Council (DBJR). The DBJR, the umbrella association of Germany’s youth organisations, co-ordinates the implementation of the EU Youth Dialogue in Germany at the federal level.

Another focal point of Engage is the adoption of the conclusions of the Council of the European Union on strengthening young Europeans’ democratic awareness and engagement. The BMFSFJ has announced the publication of an ambitious draft document that will centre on the power of young people to make a positive contribution towards shaping an active democracy. This document will call upon the Member States to enable young people to experience and actively shape democracy through participation. It will also highlight the significance and benefits of youth (social) work and the EU youth programmes when it comes to promoting democracy.

Connect: Another core aspect of the EU Youth Strategy is mobility. Further negotiations are about to start on the next generation of the EU youth programmes Erasmus+ and the European Solidarity Corps. In preparation for the announced Council recommendation, which will replace those on the mobility of young volunteers dated 20 November 2008, a public consultation will take place during Germany’s EU Council Presidency, so the document can continue to be negotiated as planned between the Member States during the Trio Presidency. Under its Council Presidency and in turn, in its capacity as Chair of the Committee of Youth Ministers, Germany will organise an informal meeting of the directors-general in charge of youth in the respective ministries across the European Union.

Empower: The current EU Youth Strategy invites the Member States and the European Commission to ‘develop and implement a European Youth Work Agenda for quality, innovation and recognition of youth work’. The Council of Europe had already called for such an agenda for youth work in its 2017 recommendation on youth work. In its Youth sector strategy 2030, youth work is one of its priorities. Germany is seizing the opportunities resulting from the overlap between its EU Council Presidency and Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers to focus on youth work and in particular, to promote the development of a European Youth Work Agenda. The proposed Council Resolution on a European Youth Work Agenda (EYWA) is scheduled for adoption on 30 November 2020. The 3rd European Youth Work Convention will take place from 7 to 10 December 2020, presenting the EU and the Council of Europe youth work community of practice with a starting point for bringing the EYWA to life over the next few years. The envisaged strategic framework is to be established to the benefit of all stakeholders in the field of youth: practitioners, trainers and instructors, ministries and agencies, researchers and European institutions, National Agencies – and of course young people.