June 23. 2024. 8:28

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Youth want louder voice in EU legislative process

Youth activists are pushing for better recognition of youth’s voices and needs in European policy-making while also making sure young people feel safe to participate, a key concern as next year’s European elections draw closer.

In order to give more voice to young people and reinforce their trust in the EU institutions, the European Youth Forum has been implementing the EU Youth Dialogue, a participatory tool to include young people in the EU legislative process.

“Essentially, at a moment such as now where there is growing distrust or disinterest from the side of the youth towards institutions, we need to make the institutions even more relevant to the youth,” Elias Dray, a vice president of European Youth Forum, told EURACTIV.

A participatory tool

“The EU Youth Dialogue is a participatory mechanism, which [has] existed since 2009, on a European level,” Christiana Xenofontos, a vice president of the European Youth Forum, told EURACTIV.

“It’s a mechanism that has been created in order to support the co-creation of policies that reflect the needs of young people, between young people and policymakers,” she explained.

While the EU Youth Dialogue can give youth a voice in EU policies, the tool is not yet widely known among young Europeans. A 2022 Eurobarometer survey on youth and democracy found that only 13% of respondents were aware of it.

However, boosting participation methods and spaces for young people to engage in the EU democratic process is key ahead of the European elections next year, according to Xenofontos.

While the 2019 European elections saw an increase in young voters, a post-election Eurobarometer found that overall older people were the ones more likely to vote.

“In order to convince or to motivate young people to go and vote or to even be a candidate, we need to create this safe space,” she said.

Assessing EU policies

Alongside this participatory exercise, the European Youth Forum is pushing for an impact assessment tool called EU Youth Test, to evaluate the impact of EU policies on youth.

“Part of the current [youth] distrust comes from the irrelevancy, sometimes, [in] policies towards the youth. The Youth Test aims to ensure that the policies are relevant,” said Dray, adding that it should be “a systematised ex-ante evaluation and impact assessment for policies.”

“It is for making new legislation relevant to young people and ensuring that all legislations are relevant to young people, and none of them is harming young people and young generations now, but also [the] young generations of the future,” he added.

This impact assessment test has already been implemented in member states such as France, Austria, Germany and the region of Flanders in Belgium.

While impact assessment tests do not target specific policies, Germany’s ‘Youth-Check’ has already influenced food regulation debates which aimed to change food advertisements for those under 14.

Youth’s concerns

According to youth activists, taking into account young people’s voices and needs in the EU legislation process would help design better policies and give responses to current youth’s concerns.

“There is not a single voice, not a single group that should speak for youth. I think we can all agree on that,” Alexandre Fonseca, SALTO Youth participation coordinator, told EURACTIV.

“But there are specific concerns of youth. Not having a voice, not having [one’s] opinion heard, is definitely one,” he said.