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The President of the European Commission, Mr. Junker, announced in September the willingness to establish a European Solidarity Corps, which creates opportunities for young people to volunteer or work in projects in their own country or abroad that benefit communities and people around Europe. The projects would need to comply with the programme’s mission and can vary very much on topic, ranging from helping refugees or preventing natural disasters, to provide language lessons etc.
The initiative will include two strands, the volunteering and occupational one, and young people can register as of now on the website to show availability to join upcoming projects. Also private companies will be eligible to host volunteers within this programme.
The Commission wants to mobilize 100.000 volunteers by 2020 and to reach this objective, they will use existing EU funded volunteering programmes such as EVS, which will be labeled ‘European Solidarity Corps’. Therefore, no additional funding is foreseen at the moment. For more information have a look at the FAQ here.
In less than 3 months the initiative has been launched, on 7 December, in Brussels, and the website is available online. This shows that if there is political willingness, processes can be very fast and effective, but at the same time disregard the contribution that civil society can make in designing actions of this kind. In this case, civil society organisations active in the field of volunteering have tried to ensure that their expert voice is heard while setting up the Solidarity Corps and published a joint statement supported also by 27 MEPs and the European Parliament Youth Intergroup. Also the Lifelong Learning Platform has published a reaction.
At the same time that the European Solidarity Corps is launched, important developments are taking place within the European Voluntary Service Programme which celebrates its 20th anniversary. On 26 October the European Parliament issued a resolution on EVS and the promotion of volunteering in Europe calling for a better coordinated policy on volunteering, to give volunteers a proper legal status and help them join programmes. Almost 100 million EU citizens have taken part as volunteers in education, culture or arts, sport events, humanitarian and development aid work. Young people should take advantage of volunteering schemes to develop skills and acquire experience that helps them to find jobs afterwards, stresses the text. Also, people of all ages should be encouraged to take advantage of volunteering to improve their skills and understanding of other cultures, and thus improve their chances of finding a job.
Finally, despite the real social and economic benefits of volunteering for individuals and organisations, participation in the European Volunteering Service remains modest and many barriers still have to be removed. This is shown clearly by the preliminary results of the Study on the impact of transnational volunteering through the European Voluntary Service conducted by CHE Consult and ICF. The study shows that 60% of EVSers come from a family with academic background, 63% have an university degree themselves, 75% have no fewer opportunities, 70% are female, 70% already volunteered and 36% already had an experience of learning mobility. This study will feed into the revision of EVS within Erasmus+ and will sure influence the set up of the European Solidarity Corps. We need to make sure that while promoting volunteering, the EU makes sure this is accessible to everyone – and therefore programmes could be differentiated on the basis of the target group – and at the same time it impacts positively the individual, local community and the host organization.
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