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The European Union’s youth policies aim to meet young people’s changing expectations while encouraging them to contribute to society. The Treaty of Maastricht extended the scope of EU policies to include the youth field in 1993. Before 2001, the activities of European institutions in the youth field focused mainly on the consideration and implementation of specific programs such as Youth for Europe, launched in 1988 to encourage international exchanges and mobility among young people in the member states of the European Communities. The White Paper on Youth, adopted in November 2001, proposed increased cooperation in the areas of participation, information, and voluntary activities. It urged a greater understanding and knowledge of youth and recommended taking the youth dimension more into account when developing policies in areas such as education and training, employment and social inclusion, health, and antidiscrimination, with the additional aim of increasing young people’s participation in social and political life and their active citizenship. The European Youth Pact (http://europa.eu/youth/news/index_1794_en.html), an initiative that promotes a more unified and coherent approach to youth issues in the European Union, was announced in 2005. The EU framework for youth policy is now composed of three main courses of action: encouraging young people’s active citizenship, promoting social and occupational integration of young people, and including a youth dimension in other policies. In addition, the European Union also contributes to the development of youth mobility and the recognition of their nonformal learning experiences. The European Youth Portal is available at http://europa.eu/youth/index.cfm?l_id=en.

Strategy: Europe 2020

Europe 2020 is the EU’s growth strategy for the coming decade. It focuses on knowledge and innovation (smart growth), a more sustainable economy (sustainable growth), high employment and social inclusion (inclusive growth). The areas most in need of attention will be addressed by 7 flagship initiatives, where two target specifically at young people: Youth on the Move (within smart growth) proposes 28 key actions aimed at making education and training more relevant to young people’s needs and encouraging more of them to take advantage of EU grants to study or train in another country. This will increase young people’s employability and access to the labor market. The second flagship initiative “An agenda for new skills and jobs” (within inclusive growth) aims to address some of these issues by supporting EU countries and regions in developing more effective ways to analyze and predict which skills will be required in tomorrow’s labor markets and, with this knowledge, developing and adapting education and training so that the workers gain the skills required. These initiatives are coordinated by EU DG Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities.

Agenda for new skills and jobs: http://ec.europa.eu/social/main.jsp?catId=822&langId=en

Youth on the Move: http://europa.eu/youthonthemove/index_en.htm



Eurodesk is a European network of information services in 27 countries providing access to European information for young people and those who work with them. In each participating country, the Eurodesk partners are national bodies working in the youth field, which have been selected by the relevant ministry in each country to deliver Eurodesk services. National Partners cooperate with over 500 local youth information providers (Eurodesk Local Relays) to extend the availability of Eurodesk information services to young people at the local level. Eurodesk offers these local agencies training, information tools, and support to facilitate the provision of European information to young people.



SALTO-YOUTH stands for Support, Advanced Learning and Training Opportunities within the Youth in Action (YiA) program. SALTO-YOUTH.net is a network of eight resource centers working on European priority areas within the youth field. It provides youth work and training resources, and organizes training and networking activities to support organizations and national agencies of the YiA program within the frame of the European Commission’s Youth in Action program and beyond. SALTO was established in 2000 as part of the European Commission’s Training Strategy within the YOUTH program (the predecessor to the Youth in Action program) and works in synergy and complementarity with other partners in the field.

Youth in Action Program (YiA)


Youth in Action is the EU Program for young people ages 15 to 28 (in some cases 13 to 30). It was adopted in 2006 by the European Parliament and the Council under Decision No. 1719/2006/EC. YiA aims to inspire a sense of active citizenship, solidarity, and tolerance among young Europeans and to involve them in shaping the Union’s future. It promotes mobility within and beyond EU borders, nonformal learning, and intercultural dialogue, and encourages the inclusion of all young people, regardless of their educational, social, and cultural background and aims to respond to the evolution and needs of young people in Europe. The program is structured around five actions:

  • Action 1—Youth for Europe: encourages young people’s active citizenship, participation, and creativity through youth exchanges, youth initiatives, and youth democracy projects.
  • Action 2—European Voluntary Service: helps young people to develop their sense of solidarity by participating, either individually or in groups, in nonprofit, unpaid voluntary activities abroad.
  • Action 3—Youth in the World: promotes partnerships and exchanges among young people and youth organizations across the world.
  • Action 4—Youth Support Systems: includes various measures to support youth workers and youth organizations and to improve the quality of their activities.
  • Action 5—Support for European Cooperation in the Youth Field: supports youth policy cooperation at the European level, in particular by facilitating dialogue between young people and policy makers.

The Youth in Action program has four permanent priorities and additional annual priorities which potential projects will have to be aware of as they frame their bids for support: 1. European Citizenship; 2. Participation of young people; 3. Cultural diversity; 4. Inclusion; and in addition to these, each year the focus is also placed on specific annual priorities.

Consultations for new youth programs

In November 2010, the European Commission has conducted public consultations on 3 planned programs, due to replace 3 existing programs from the beginning of 2014.


The Council of Europe wants to encourage young people to get actively involved in strengthening civil society in Europe; to defend the values of human rights, cultural diversity, and social cohesion; and to promote and develop youth policies.

Directorate of Youth and Sport (DYS)


The Directorate of Youth and Sport supports the development of youth associations, networks, and initiatives, and promotes international cooperation in the youth field. It operates on a system of co-management that involves representatives from INGYOs cooperating with government officials to work out the priorities for the youth sector. The DYS is responsible for organizing the Conferences of European Ministers responsible for youth. The CoE’s youth sector’s priorities for 2010-2012 focus on “Developing European youth co-operation through youth policy, youth work and non-formal education/learning”

Project N°1
“Human rights and democracy: youth policy and youth work promoting the core values of the Council of Europe”
Project N° 2
“Living together in diverse societies: youth policy and youth work promoting intercultural dialogue”
Project N° 3
“Social inclusion of young people”
Project N° 4
“Policy approaches and instruments benefiting young people and children”

These priorities are pursued through various activities, including training courses, study sessions, intercultural language courses, seminars, expert meetings and research, publications, and advice on youth policy development. It’s overall youth policy is called Agenda 2020 and was adopted in 2008 at the European Conference of Ministers Responsible for Youth held in Kyiv, Ukraine. See: http://www.coe.int/t/dg4/youth/IG_Coop/8_CEMRY_declaration_en.asp#TopOfPage.

European Youth Centers (EYCs), Budapest and Strasbourg

Budapest: www.eycb.coe.int

Strasbourg: www.coe.int/t/dg4/youth/EYC/Strasbourg_en.asp

The European Youth Centers (EYCs) in Strasbourg and Budapest are permanent structures for the implementation of the Council of Europe’s youth policy. They are international training and meeting centers with residential facilities, hosting most of the youth sector’s activities. They provide a flexible and modern working environment for international activities, with meeting rooms equipped for simultaneous interpretation, information centers, and audio-visual and computer facilities. The EYC Strasbourg was founded in 1972 with financial support from the Norwegian government. The EYC Budapest was set up and inaugurated in 1995 as the first permanent service of the Council of Europe in a Central and East European country. Its premises were placed at the disposal of the Council of Europe by the Republic of Hungary. The European Youth Centers run an annual program of up to 50 activities in close cooperation with nongovernmental youth organizations.

European Youth Foundation (EYF)


The European Youth Foundation is a fund established in 1972 by the Council of Europe (CoE) to provide financial support for European youth activities. It has an annual budget of approximately 3 million euros. Since 1972, more than 300,000 young people, aged 15 to 30, mostly from CoE member states, have benefited directly from EYF-supported activities. The EYF provides financial support for activities undertaken by nongovernmental youth organizations or networks, or other nongovernmental structures involved in areas of youth work such as educational, social, cultural, and humanitarian activities of a European character; and activities aiming at strengthening peace and cooperation in Europe. It also supports activities designed to promote closer cooperation and better understanding among young people in Europe, particularly by developing the exchange of information; and activities intended to stimulate solidarity between Europe and developing countries for cultural, educational, and social purposes; studies, research, and documentation on youth matters. In addition, the EYF provides administrative grants to international youth organizations. This financial support allows international nongovernmental youth organizations to maintain a permanent secretariat.

Solidarity Fund for Youth Mobility (SFYM)


The Council of Europe and the International Union of Railways (UIC) joined forces in 1994 to set up the SFYM, a fund for the mobility of disadvantaged young people. For every InterRail Card sold, one euro is donated by the UIC to fund projects involving Europe’s least advantaged young people. The fund provides financial support to cover the rail travel costs of young people from underprivileged backgrounds or economically underdeveloped areas so that they can take part in international educational activities. To qualify for assistance, projects must involve at least two countries and a minimum of ten people.

Council of Europe Agreements and Partnerships on Youth-Related Issues

Council of Europe, North–South Centre for Global Interdependence


The North–South Centre, supported by the Portuguese government, was opened in 1989 as the outcome of a five-year process to raise the profile of North–South interdependence issues inside and outside the Council of Europe. In relation to youth, its goal is to provide training and capacity building for young people and youth organizations as well as to facilitate policy action on youth in development policies, thus reinforcing the role of youth as a fundamental force in the field of North–South interdependence. It runs a variety of activities to further this objective, including: the University on Youth and Development, the Global Youth Training Course, the Africa–Europe Youth Summit, the Africa–Europe Training Course for Youth Organizations, and participation in the Euro–Med Youth Covenant. The Centre is also active in the development and enhancement of strategies and capacity building for global education, targeting institutions and practitioners in the field of global education in the formal and nonformal sectors.

European Network of Youth Centers (ENYC)


During a constitutive meeting that took place in 2003, the representatives of ten youth centers and other bodies involved in education and training in the context of nonformal education from different member states of the CoE, established the European Network of Youth Centers, a nongovernmental organization, under the auspices of the Council of Europe. ENYC aims to develop standards for local, regional, and national centers as a means of demonstrating their quality while preserving pluralism and diversity; provide support to individual centers as they develop their work; facilitate study visits and other exchanges so that centers can learn from each other; and promote study of the processes of intercultural and international learning in nonformal settings.

European Youth Information and Counseling Agency (ERYICA)



ERYICA is an international nonprofit association, created in 1986, that aims to ensure European coordination and representation in the field of youth information and counseling.

Partial Agreement on the Youth Card

The Council of Europe runs a number of partial agreements to which its member states may contribute voluntary funds. In the youth sector, one such agreement exists. The Partial Agreement on the Youth Card was set up between the Council of Europe and the European Youth Card Association in 1991. It aims to facilitate mobility of young people and their cultural participation. The European Youth Card under 26 is an advantage card that provides young people with affordable access to mobility and cultural facilities in European countries. The benefits apply to all young people holding the card, irrespective of the country they live in.

European Youth Card Association (EYCA)


EYCA supports its member organizations (youth card associations in European countries) in promoting the European Youth Card so that they can offer young people improved access to transport, accommodations, leisure activities, culture, sports—indeed, any benefits and services that encourage their development and mobility, and improve the quality of their lives. The European Youth Card Association is based in Bratislava, Slovakia.

The Partnership Between the Council of Europe and the European Union in the Field of Youth


Since 1998, the Council of Europe and the European Commission have cooperated closely in the youth field. This partnership has taken the form of consecutive agreements focusing in the first stage on “European Youth Worker and Youth Leader Training,” complemented in 2003 by two further covenants, one on “Euro-Mediterranean Youth Cooperation” and another on “Youth Research.” As of 2005 both partners strengthened cooperation and established a single partnership agreement with the aim of providing a lasting framework for the joint development of a coherent strategy in the field of youth worker training, youth policy, and youth research. The partnership provides an added value to the programs of the two institutions and their institutional partners; fosters cooperation, complementarity, and synergies; and enhances the partnership’s impact on youth-related policies and activities in Europe and beyond. It has activities in the areas of youth research, youth policy development, and Euro–Med youth cooperation.


The OSCE is the largest regional security organization in the world. It conducts a wide range of activities related to all three dimensions of security—human, political-military, and economic-environmental. The Organization employs about 3,000 staff in 18 missions and field operations located in Southeastern Europe, the Caucasus, Eastern Europe, and Central Asia. They work “on the ground” to facilitate political processes, prevent or settle conflicts, and promote civil society and the rule of law. The Organization does not have a centralized youth program, but according to needs identified on the ground in countries where it is active, it has developed youth-specific programming. Many of the OSCE’s regional and local programs have a strong youth dimension, involving young people in all kinds of educational activities to promote civil society reconciliation and community and human development; youth democratic leadership; and human rights, among others. Particularly in Southeastern Europe, the OSCE has promoted youth participation in its programs as both beneficiaries and drivers of change. To this end, several OSCE delegations in Southeast European countries have hired youth program managers. The OSCE website is: www.osce.org.

OSCE Youth Forum


The first OSCE Youth Forum was held in Madrid in 2007. The event was organized on the initiative of the Spanish Chairmanship. The Forum brought together participants aged 18 to 30 years from across the OSCE’s 56 participating states. Participants discussed issues such as international cooperation in the fight against terrorism, support for victims of terrorism, the role of young people in conflict prevention, good use and distribution of natural resources, the environment and security, the promotion of understanding among cultures and religions, and the defense of human rights and fundamental freedoms. The results of the conference were considered by OSCE heads of state and for the further development of OSCE’s programming for and with young people.


United Nations Development Programme (UNDP): Europe and the CIS (RBEC)


UNDP’s Regional Bureau for Europe and the CIS serves 29 countries in Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. Working under a mandate issued by the UN Secretary-General, RBEC began the process of establishing offices and programs in the region in 1992. With its headquarters in New York, RBEC comprises 24 country offices and has a regional center in Bratislava, Slovakia. While RBEC does not have a specific youth program, it works on the following thematic priorities that overlap with concerns of the European youth sector: democratic governance, poverty reduction, HIV/AIDS, and gender. In many of the countries in which UNDP RBEC is active, young people make up a large part of the beneficiaries.