Our January special focus: 2023 European Year of Skills – work in progress
The European Parliament and the Commission are currently finalising the proposal for the European Year of Skills* (EYS). Particular emphasis is given to the importance of professional education, training, up- and reskilling to empower people to “successfully navigate labour market changes and to fully engage in society and democracy”. As some MEPs pointed out during the January meeting of the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs, skills must not be considered as something serving the labour market’s needs. Rather, they should be centred around European people’s needs. At Inter Alia, we firmly believe that it is necessary to address some conceptual gaps before the final approval of the proposal:
- A holistic perspective on the concept of skills that goes beyond the labour market. Skills are not only relatable to our professional growth, but also to our personal and social development. Hence, we cannot neglect the importance of life and social skills as promoters of social inclusion and democracy;
- A youth-centred approach in the definition of skills: involving young people in the process of identification of the skills needed for their development, without an imposition coming from the labour market;
- In order to enable active participation of European citizens in society, the EYS proposal must also include civic skills that foster civic participation. As The Good Lobby mentioned, we need to change the paradigm of skills: rather than thinking about what skills are useful for, we should rethink how skills support everyone – particularly young people – in their learning journey and political actions.
*During the annual State of the European Union speech in September 2022, the President of the European Commission Ursula Von der Leyen announced the Commission’s proposal to make 2023 the European Year of Skills.
This month, Eurostat shared the latest youth unemployment rates across the EU, confirming Spain, Greece and Italy as the top three States with the highest rates. If many internships are still unpaid, yet costing 1028€ a month, according to the European Youth Forum, and low salaries are becoming the norm, this trend is unlikely to change. As CSOs and youth organisations have access to data on the challenges faced by youth, we have a primary role in advocating for better employment policies and ensuring a more inclusive participation of youth in policy-making in the field of social affairs.
In view of the 2024 European Parliament elections, ensuring the participation of every EU citizen must be a priority. The Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs in the European Parliament voted on a report that proposes new rules for participation in elections. The aim is to make it easier for Europeans to vote and stand in municipal elections in the EU country where they reside. This would allow mobile citizens, but also Europe’s most vulnerable groups, to be better safeguarded when exercising their right to vote and stand for elections.
In order to be validated, this text needs to be approved by the entire Parliament during the Plenary session. However, it will be the Member States who will take a final decision on this proposal, after having taken into account the EP’s position.
Youth & Education
The European Commission has published an evaluation of the 2014 Quality Framework for Traineeships. It is a framework that sets out 21 principles for traineeships that Member States are recommended to follow to improve their legislation and policies, in order to ensure high-quality learning and working conditions for young people. Stakeholders involved in the consultation phase suggested the strengthening of quality criteria, such as fair remuneration, access to social protection, and digital skills. Later this year, the Commission will propose an update of the framework: it will be a contribution to the European Year of Skills 2023, offering impetus to lifelong learning and inclusion of young people not in education, employment or training (NEETs).
Rule of Law, Erasmus & Corruption
The Council of the EU has adopted a decision to protect the EU budget against violations of the Rule of Law in Hungary. What does this mean? More than 12 billion euros of EU funds for Hungary have been suspended after the European Commission raised concerns over new reforms to the higher education system. In fact, the Hungarian government is trying to facilitate the involvement of senior politicians from Orban’s party, Fidesz, in the leadership of universities, therefore undermining academic freedom.
Hungary’s Prime Minister and leader of the far-right party “Fidesz”, Viktor Orbán.
During one of the usual press briefings held by the Commission, a spokesperson explained that until remedy measures about conflicts of interest and public procurement procedures are fulfilled by the Hungarian government, Erasmus funds will be frozen.
The issue is that freezing EU funds to Member States that do not respect the rule of law ultimately punishes citizens, rather than the governments themselves. In this case, repercussions will fall on Hungarian young people and teachers, who will not be able to take part in Erasmus. These measures will be effective starting by mid-2024. Therefore, the Erasmus agreements signed in 2022, covering a period of two years, will not be affected by this decision.
nd support pushbacks at the EU’s external borders (what a surprise), Greek authorities continue to misuse the criminal justice system to criminalise search and rescue missions in Greek waters, as international laws demand. NGOs providing lifesaving support to migrants and refugees, such as Free Humanitarians, must be protected in carrying out their lawful activities and EU Member States should stop the criminalisation of solidarity.
Activists and civilians supporting Free Humanitarians rescuers during the trial on January 10th, 2023.
Qatargate: what now?
On 18 January, the European Parliament elected MEP Marc Angel (S&D) as the new EP Vice President, replacing Eva Kaili, the former VP involved in Qatargate. This should represent a first step to show the commitment of EU institutions to make a change towards accountability, transparency and integrity. However, even though informal MEP friendship groups with foreign countries will be banned, and other measures to prevent corruption will be presented to respond to the Qatargate crisis, the ambition is still too low. It is about regaining citizens’ trust, and it is about cultural change within institutions. Nevertheless, the efforts are still not enough, and the price for not acting decisively is very high.
European Citizens Initiative – new year, new initiatives
As previously announced, we are one of the Greek European Citizens’ Initiative Ambassadors. Our duties are to spread the word about the ECI, foster debate and empower citizens to act on causes they care about.
This year already started with the registration of a new ECI called ‘Article 4: Stop torture and inhuman treatment at Europe’s borders’, aimed at safeguarding fundamental rights at the EU’s borders given the frequent violations occurring at the edges of Europe. In order to be successful, the initiative needs to collect one million signatures from at least seven countries. If you would like to support the initiative and stand in the fight against border violence, you can sign it here.
To know more about the ECI, check out our latest posts and stories on Instagram.
Citizens’ Participation – Have your say!
Participatory democracy is a crucial pillar of the EU. Through the European Commission’s platform ‘Have your say”, you can share your views on new EU policies and existing laws. At the moment, the Commission has opened the floor for public consultation on the evaluation of the impact and implementation of Europass, a framework offering online tools and information to support people in their lifelong learning and career management. You can fill in the online questionnaire here until February 28th, 2023.
What happens after a public consultation? One example is the public consultation opened in 2022 to collect feedback and opinions from civil society in order to identify the causes of “brain drain”. It is the phenomenon where qualified workers, especially young people, leave their place of origin and migrate in search for better opportunities; this phenomenon undermines the growth of the concerned regions, in particular the most rural ones. After having collected the opinions coming from civil society, the Commission published a Communication to the European Parliament and the Council, where it identifies risks and opportunities for regions suffering from brain drain, giving direction for future policies. Here, the Commission has stressed the necessity of investing in re- and upskilling people, in coherence with the 2023 European Year of Skills. This means the latter can be a relevant framework to boost decision-making in policy areas like youth, social affairs, and regional and territorial development.