#NextGenerationEU must not leave our generation behind!
Yesterday on 27 May, the European Commission presented its revamped proposal for the next long-term budget (Multiannual Financial Framework, MFF) for 2021-2027. The financial and social impact of the Covid-19 pandemic is shattering and the Commission is also seeking to rapidly aid the Union and Member States with a new ‘recovery instrument’ called Next Generation EU.
The future decisions will undoubtedly impact the lives of the current generation and generations after. As we assess the proposal of the European Commission, we are pleased to see a strong commitment to public investment, a hopeful sign that the EU will not repeat past mistakes, and will avoid relying on austerity to respond to this new social and economic crisis. By going forward in this direction and investing in youth, we can build solidarity and come out stronger as a Union. We are also pleased to see that the momentum built by our generation in ensuring that we put our planet first has been reflected in this proposal. We welcome the green incentives and added investment to the Just Transition Fund as a start that might be our last chance.
Are we investing enough in youth employment and social inclusion?
We are glad that the EU wants to stand by its young people as we are disproportionately affected by this crisis and its aftermath. A recent survey conducted by the ILO in partnership with the European Youth Forum, shows that over one in six young people have lost their job since the onset of the COVID‑19 crisis - we risk becoming the "lockdown generation". The European Commission has answered our call to increase earmarking for youth employment under the European Social Fund Plus (ESF+), a much needed step forward. However, questions remain as it appears that the overall ESF+ envelope has decreased compared to the 2018 proposal and the earmarking of funds towards youth employment in the ESF+ remains below the €8.8bn in the current EU budget.
The new React-EU initiative - one of the instruments within Next Generation EU - foresees €55bn that can support the Member States, as does the Recovery and Resilience Facility totalling €560bn. However, will these instruments be enough to ensure that young people can access quality jobs and social protection, and therefore support our rights in the long run? Exactly how much of the React-EU and Recovery and Resilience Facility funds will be invested in youth employment measures is still unclear. We must ensure that EU funding not only focuses on youth employment, but is also invested towards strong social safety nets to protect young people against poverty. This is the only way we can ensure our rights are protected in the long run. We encourage Member States to prioritise young people and our future when using these funds.
Are we preserving the flagship youth programmes?
We welcome that the youth programmes such as Erasmus+ and the European Solidarity Corps have not been sacrificed as part of the crisis response. For many youth organisations, Erasmus+ is a back bone that allows them to engage and work with young people from all walks of life, that would not be possible otherwise. The increase to 24.6bn announced in this proposal, compared to the European Council’s proposal in February this year, is a strong signal to the Member States that this programme must remain a priority for the EU. As the Youth Forum, we fully stand by the multiplication of all the youth exchanges, mobilities, solidarity actions, new skills, the feeling of belonging to the European project and many other invaluable benefits this programme brings to Europe and beyond.
While we welcome this investment, we will keep fighting for a more ambitious programme to rebuild our societies.
Carina Autengruber, President of the Youth Forum says:
We welcome this budget proposal as an important first step for the investment in current and future young generations. The pandemic has highlighted the particular vulnerabilities young people face as we find ourselves on the frontline when it comes to feeling the social and economic burden of job losses. We must be able to access this very important investment without delay and all institutions must work swiftly to reach those most at risk. Engaging with youth organisations and civil society more broadly will be crucial to ensure that no one is left behind on this road to recovery.
As negotiations resume, the European Youth Forum will remain a strong advocate for young people and youth organisations towards all Member States and EU Institutions.