On 17 April 2020, the European Parliament adopted a resolution on how the European Union can coordinate through the Covid-19 crisis and its consequences.
The European Youth Forum welcomes this resolution as a step towards a fairer and more sustainable post-crisis world. It looks at various factors that are vital for young people and youth organisations, such as social protection, employment, environment, human rights and civic space. Crucially, the resolution also outlines the need for a large investment to achieve these goals. It is now up to European leaders to act with ambition to answer the European Parliament and introduce a recovery plan that leaves no one behind. The deep social and economic inequalities that existed months ago have only been exacerbated by this current crisis. Simply restoring our society to the way that it was should not be seen as a long-term solution.
So what exactly does the European Parliament resolution say and what could it mean for young people?
The European Parliament proposes a massive recovery and reconstruction package to support the European economy. This would mean an increase to the next EU long term budget (MFF).
Our response: We agree that increasing the EU long-term budget will be an essential tool to prevent the long term social and economic impact of the crisis. The situation is increasingly urgent across Europe, for example last month 800,000 jobs were lost in just Spain alone.
However, implementing this recovery package must be done while protecting the current commitments of the 2021-2027 MFF. To help us build more social and sustainable Europe, the Youth Forum calls for an increase in the MFF and for this process to be prioritised and expedited by the European Commission and the European Council. Now more than ever, decision makers cannot afford to cut back on essential sectoral programmes, such as the Rights and Values Programme or the EU flagship Erasmus+ Programme that play a significant role to ensure democratic life in the EU.
The European Parliament has stressed that the recovery and reconstruction should be based around a Green Deal with a focus on digital transformation.
Our response: We must see the recovery from this crisis as an opportunity for systemic change to our economic system— placing equality and sustainability over profit and exploitation. In this way we can move towards an economy that contributes to social and environmental wellbeing. Using this crisis as reason to postpone or relax EU climate targets would be a huge mistake. Fighting the climate crisis is equally as urgent and any delay could have irrevocable outcomes.
The European Parliament pointed out that not only is the crisis impacting citizens' health but it’s also having a financial impact on workers, employees, self-employed and businesses. They want to ensure that the European Commission and Member States place social rights, working conditions and job security at the heart of the recovery with particular focus being put on precarious workers.
Our response:The International Labour Organisation has calculated that young people will be disproportionately affected in the labour market by the crisis. We know if there is a decrease in labour demand, young people are often the first to be laid-off. Moreover, young people are often employed under precarious positions or are under-employed in the sectors facing distinct challenges during this crisis. As a result, we can sadly expect to see an increase in youth unemployment.
We call for the EU and Member States to put measures in place to prevent a repeat of the outcomes of the 2008 global financial crisis. We expect Member States and the EU to prioritise high labour standards to ensure job quality over the short-term gains of laxed labour laws. We also call for the reform of social protection systems to provide a safety net for all. We call for legislation to avert the discrimination that prevents young people from accessing social protection programmes, unemployment benefits and minimum income.
The European Parliament is calling for an Anti-Poverty Strategy, a European Child Guarantee and a gender analysis of all responses to compliment the implementation of the recovery.
Our response: We welcome that the European Parliament is acknowledging the importance to protect social rights as a part of the recovery process along with economic policies. We call for institutions to go further and ensure the protection of the rights of young people during the response to the crisis, along with other disproportionately affected groups, such as women and people with disabilities. Lack of support at this crucial time could have far-reaching, detrimental consequences not just for individuals but society at large.
In this Resolution, the European Parliament again has highlighted the importance of the Charter of Fundamental Rights and the rule of law, especially with the introduction of emergency measures in response to crisis.
Our response: The European Youth Forum will always defend access to rights and the rule of law. Recent responses by Member States to the crisis, like the new legislation introduced in Hungary have directly violated fundamental rights and freedoms. Developments such as these demonstrate the responsibility of Member States to ensure that rights of people in the EU are safeguarded. We call on the EU to take strong and decisive actions to ensure that there are repercussions for violating commonly agreed EU principles and misusing the crisis situation.
As the EU begins to form a joint, unified response to the devastating consequences of the COVID-19 crisis, we call on all political leaders to recognise that without proper investment and ambition, we undoubtedly risk leaving even more people behind and deepening the divides we have been fighting for so long to close.
After the economic crisis of 2008, young generations have already found themselves at the forefront; the group most likely to suffer from poverty and social exclusion. We call on all political leaders to take into account young people's concerns in their recovery plans and to work hand in hand with young people and youth organisations to protect our rights, planet, and our future.