Select Committee on European Scrutiny Thirty-Seventh Report

6 Youth participation and information




COM(06) 417

+ ADD 1




Commission Communication on European policies on youth participation and information — Follow-up to the White Paper on a New Impetus for European Youth: Implementing the common objectives for participation by and information for young people in view of promoting their active European citizenship

Commission staff working document: Analysis of reports by Member States

Draft Resolution of the Council and the representatives of the Governments of the Member States, meeting within the Council, on implementing the common objectives for participation by and information for young people in view of promoting their active European citizenship

Legal base
Document originated(a) 20 July 2006
Deposited in Parliament(a) 27 July 2006

(b) 1 September 2006

DepartmentEducation and Skills
Basis of considerationEM of 31 August 2006
Previous Committee ReportNone
To be discussed in CouncilNovember 2006
Committee's assessmentLegally and politically important
Committee's decisionNot cleared; further information requested


6.1 In 2001, the Commission published a White Paper on A New Impetus for European Youth. It proposed a framework for co-operation in the youth field.

6.2 In 2002, the Council adopted a Resolution approving the framework and calling for the "open method of coordination"[10] to be applied to four priorities:

  • participation by young people in democratic life;
  • information for young people;
  • voluntary activities by young people; and
  • greater understanding and knowledge of youth.

6.3 In 2003, the Council approved the Commission's proposals for common objectives for the first two of the priorities: participation and information.[11]

6.4 In November 2004, the Council approved common objectives for the remaining two priorities: voluntary activities by young people and greater understanding and knowledge of youth.[12]

6.5 Article 149 of the Treaty establishing the European Community (the EC Treaty) provides that the Community is to contribute to the development of "quality education" by encouraging co-operation between Member States and, if necessary, by supplementing and supporting their action. The EC Treaty provides no other legal base for Community action in the youth field, but there is a youth dimension to other matters, such as employment and social cohesion, for which there are legal bases.

Document (a) — the Commission's Communication

6.6 Member States have agreed to provide the Commission with national reports on the implementation of the four common objectives. This Communication is based on the reports the Member Sates made at the end of 2005 and the first part of this year on the implementation of the information and participation objectives. The Commision comments on what Member States have done, notes the obstacles they have encountered in implementing the objectives and draws some conclusions.

6.7 The common objective for information includes action to:

  • develop information services which take account of the specific needs of young people;
  • facilitate equal access to the information by all young people, avoiding any discrimination or exclusion;
  • develop national, regional and local youth portals linked to the European Youth Portal;
  • monitor the quality of the information disseminated to young people;
  • improve the education and training of people who work in youth information services;
  • improve the link between information and counselling;
  • promote the involvement of youth organisations, youth workers and young people in the preparation of information; and
  • encourage young people to take a greater part in the dissemination of information.

The Commission staff working document (ADD 1) summarises what the Member States' reports say under each of these headings.

6.8 The Commission comments that:

  • there are wide differences in the way Member States have approached the implementation of the information objective;
  • the Internet appears to be the main means to disseminate information;
  • there are national youth "portals" (websites) in 19 Member States, containing information on education, training, employment, housing, health, mobility and so on, and with a link to the European Youth Portal;
  • only about 12 Member States — of which the UK is one — have "an information strategy addressing all questions of interest to young people and integrating the local, regional, national and European levels";[13]
  • networking is seen as essential to improve the skills and qualifications of youth information workers;
  • virtually no action has been taken to involve young people and youth organisations in the preparation and dissemination of information;
  • the main obstacles to implementation of the information objective have been: the difficulty some Member States have found in defining the starting point from which progress should be assessed; the difficulty of improving coordination between the authorities and organisations with responsibilities for young people; and lack of resources; and
  • Member States did not consult young people and youth organisations in a systematic way.

6.9 The common objective for participation includes action to:

  • increase young people's participation in civic life through, for example, getting involved on NGOs, voluntary work, and youth councils;
  • remove obstacles to participation by disadvantaged young people;
  • develop and encourage regular discussion between young people and national, regional and local authorities;
  • remove obstacles to participation in representative democracy by disadvantaged young people;
  • develop education about and training for participation in civic life and representative democracy; and
  • raise awareness of the benefits of involving young people.

6.10 Again, the Commission staff working document (ADD 1) summarises what the national reports say about the action Member States have taken to implement the participation objective.

6.11 The Commission notes that some Member States have introduced statutory requirements for consulting young people, while others have developed national plans for youth participation and most have established national youth councils. It also notes that one of the main obstacles to implementation of the objective is that young people's interest in politics and trade unions has decreased.

6.12 The Communication says that:

"On the basis of this analysis [of the national reports], the Commission proposes to confirm the relevance and validity of the common objectives for participation and information and to slightly adapt and improve the adopted lines of action."[14]

6.13 Most of the proposals are minor but we draw particular attention to the Commission's proposal that action is required "to ensure increased participation of young people in the institutions of representative democracy, such as promoting their involvement in political parties, encouraging the inclusion of young people on party lists and improving their position on those lists".[15]

6.14 In the penultimate paragraph of the Communication, the Commission invites the Council to agree that:

  • by the end of 2006, each Member State should identify and draw up action plans for the aspects of participation and information on which it wishes to concentrate;
  • "Member States [should] set up a follow up mechanism involving young people and their organisations and prepare an evaluation report by the end of 2008";
  • "Member States [should] be given the opportunity to take part, on a voluntary basis, in pilot 'peer reviews' organised by the Commission, on information and participation";
  • "Member States [should] promote the common objectives at national level amongst regional and local authorities, youth organisations and young people in general".

Document (b) — the draft Resolution

6.15 The Finnish Presidency has prepared this draft Resolution for adoption not only by the Council but also by the representatives of the Governments of the Member States. The draft appears to be based on the Commission's Communication on the implementation of the information and participation objectives (document (a)).

6.16 The Finnish Presidency proposes that the Resolution should:

  • "Emphasise" some points (for example, that the common priorities have provided an impetus for national policies and remain essential for promoting active citizenship among young people).
  • "Agree" some other points. For example, Member States are invited to agree that the action approved in 2003 for the implementation of the common objectives on information and participation should be modified in the way set out in the Annex to the Resolution. The modifications reflect the Commission's proposals in document (a). The changes are minor, except for the proposal that measures should be developed to promote the involvement of young people in political parties.
  • "Invite" the Member States to take the action proposed by the Commision in the penultimate paragraph of document (a), such as identifying and drawing up an action plan on the matters on which the Member State intends to concentrate.
  • "Note" the action the Commission intends to take, such as organising a regular European Youth Week, in which Commissioners and representatives of the other EC institutions would take part, preceded by consultations through the European Youth Portal.
  • "Invite" the Member States and the Commission to take further action as proposed by the Commission in document (a): for example, to ensure that the open method of consultation on participation and information is open and transparent and to organise peer reviews on information and participation.

The Government's view on documents (a) and (b)

6.17 The Minister of State for Higher Education and Lifelong Learning at the Department of Education and Skills (Bill Rammell) makes no comment on the Commission's Communication but does tell us the Government's views on the draft Resolution, which is based on the proposals in the Communication.

6.18 The Minister says that the Government has no difficulty with the general policy thrust of the draft Resolution but is concerned about two points:

  • First, the draft includes calls for action not covered by Article 149 of the EC Treaty. For example, the draft Resolution proposes that Member States should "take active measures to ensure the increased participation of young people in the institutions of representative democracy, such as promoting their involvement in political parties".[16] The Minister says that the Government will seek, throughout the negotiations, to ensure that existing Treaty competences are respected.
  • Second, the draft Resolution invites Member States, by the end of 2008, to evaluate and report on the action they have taken to implement the information and participation objectives. The Government will suggest that there should not be a separate report in 2008 but, instead, the evaluation should be included in the more general report due in 2009.

6.19 Finally, the Minister tells us that the negotiations began in September with a view to presenting Ministers with a final text for approval in November.


6.20 We recognise the importance of making readily available the information that young people need about, for example, employment, health and their rights and obligations. We also recognise the importance of encouraging them to take part in the democratic life of their communities, nationally, regionally and locally. So we can see no objection in principle to co-operation between Member States to promote the provision of information and participation by young people.

6.21 Indeed, economic and social cohesion are among the Community objectives specified in the EC Treaty and we accept that some of action for which the draft Resolution calls might contribute to the economic and social inclusion of young people. But we share the Minister's view that Article 149 of the EC Treaty does not provide a legal base for the proposal that Member States should encourage the inclusion of young people on party lists; and, so far as we are aware, no other provision of the Treaty provides a legal base for the proposal. Moreover, we doubt the appropriateness of the proposal because, in our view, it is for each political party to decide for itself whether and how to involve young people in its activities and governments should not intervene in the matter.

6.22 Accordingly, we hope that the Government will press vigorously for the removal from the Resolution of the proposal about political parties and for the exclusion of anything else for which there is not a legal base in the EC Treaty.

6.23 We ask the Minister to give us progress reports on the negotiations. Meanwhile, we shall keep documents (a) and (b) under scrutiny.

10   Conclusion 37 of the Lisbon European Council on 23/24 March 2000 described the open method of coordination as a means to help Member States progressively develop their own policies by fixing guidelines for the Union with specific timetables for achieving goals; establishing quantitative indicators and benchmarks as a way of comparing best practice; translating the European guidelines into national and regional policies by setting specific targets; and periodic monitoring, evaluation and peer review. Back

11   (24446) 8489/03 and (24448) 8490/03: See HC 63-xxix (2002-03), para 13 (10 July 2003). Back

12   (26017) 12563/04 and (26018) 12564/04: See HC 42-xxxv(2003-04), para 7 (3 November 2004). Back

13   Commission Communication, page 4, paragraph 2.1.1. Back

14   Commission Communication, page 10. Back

15   Commission Communication, page 11. Back

16   Annex to the draft Resolution, page 10, paragraph 2(k). Back

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