Young people are now able to volunteer or work in EU-wide solidarity schemes, after a final vote on the European Solidarity Corps on Tuesday.
The initiative, announced by President Juncker during the State of the Union speech in September 2016 and officially launched in December 2016, now has a legal framework. Young people can participate in a wide range of solidarity-related activities such as education, health, protecting the environment, disaster prevention, provision of food and non-food items, reception and integration of migrants and asylum seekers.
The rapporteur Helga Trüpel (Greens/EFA, DE) said, “The European Solidarity Corps is a more extensive voluntary program for young people in Europe. The program strengthens solidarity in Europe, opens up new development perspectives to young people, and offers support to communities within and outside the EU. I am glad that we are taking this step to strengthen not only young people, but also solidarity between people and regions.”
€375.6 million to support solidarity and volunteering in Europe
An overall 2018-2020 budget of €375.6 million was approved, 90% of which is allocated to volunteering and 10% of which goes to the occupational strand of the program.
The European Commission proposed €1.26 billion overall for the next 2021‑2027 budgetary period.
Young people and organisations need to register
The program is open to individuals, who can enrol in activities run by registered organisations. Individuals and organisations can register via a multilingual and interactive web portal that can be used to advertise or search for volunteering, traineeships or job placements.
Since the initiative was launched in 2016, more than 70 000 people have registered and almost 7 000 people are already participating in activities related to social inclusion, integration of migrants, support for local communities, cultural heritage or education. (EC Statistics, June 2018)
MEPs voted that the program should be made more accessible for young people with fewer opportunities, such as persons with disabilities, or those from isolated or marginalised communities, and for young people with learning or health difficulties. The European Commission and member states have to put in place special measures and a tailor-made guide and placements for them.
Young people can register from the age of 17, but they should be over 18 (and not more than 30) at the beginning of their volunteering or work activities.
Avoid exploitation of young people
Members voted for a clear distinction between volunteering activities and job placements, to ensure that no participating organisation uses young people as unpaid volunteers when potential quality jobs are available. The volunteering period will be limited to 12 months and the traineeships will be from 2 to 6 months. Parliament also imposed a minimum job contract of three months.
All participating organisations need a “Quality label” certifying that they are able to offer solidarity activities of a high quality. This label is checked regularly and can be revoked; organisations should not be automatically funded simply because they carry this label.
The vote European Solidarity Corps was adopted by 519 for,132 against and 32 abstentions.