New team of Commissioners - what about the ‘Youth Way of Life’?

13. 09. 2019

On Tuesday 10 September, Commission President-elect Ursula von der Leyen announced the new team of European Commissioners and their portfolios for the next five years. Tasked with some of the biggest issues facing Europe today, this team of Commissioners will be responsible for everything from protecting our planet to shaping the future of our societies.

The incoming President’s choices still need the green light from the European Parliament, and we have some big questions and concerns that need answering. Here are our takeaways:

“Youth” at the heart of a portfolio

Previously coming under the title of Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, the new shortened Innovation and Youth portfolio designated to Mariya Gabriel, appears to reinforce further the importance of prioritising young people. So far, so good? 

While we welcome the focus on creating opportunities and investment in young people, there is currently no mention of the broader picture of issues affecting young people. The participation of youth in democracy and society, is missing. How the recently adopted EU Youth Strategy will be integrated, is also very unclear.

Young people are not only potential contributors to innovation. We are, above all, rights holders. This must not lose emphasis as we enter into a new Commission.

More to jobs than… “Jobs”

The even shorter portfolio title of “Jobs”, was designated to Nicolas Schmit. As the Youth Forum, we are positive that there will be full commitment to the European Pillar of Social Rights, strengthening social protection and striving for quality working conditions for all. The Youth Guarantee will continue to be reinforced, as well as the European Social Fund+.

What is concerning, is the lack of focus on personal development. Education and training must be seen as having a wider benefit to our societies rather than just acting as a conveyor belt to the job market.

If we want to empower younger generations and give them the tools to shape the future of work, it’s time to widen our understanding of ‘jobs’ beyond employment and ensure that their social rights are met too. 

What “European Way of Life” do we want to see?

The most controversial announcement made by incoming President von der Leyen, was for the dossier Protecting our European Way of Life. Margaritis Schinas is the designated Vice-President and will cover wide ranging areas of migration, security, employment and education and culture. 

There are real problems with this title. Associating issues of security and migration sends the wrong message to Europeans. Our way of life and the one young people stand for, is solidarity and openness. 

Looking forward, we are confident that there is a lot that can be accomplished with the proposed new EU Commission team. However, to ensure that young people’s rights are fully recognised in all areas, we need the unclear and concerning points raised above to be raised and answered during the upcoming hearing process in the European Parliament. 

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