Volunteer – AEGEE-Europe | European Students' Forum AEGEE (Association des Etats Généraux des Etudiants de l’Europe / European Students’ Forum) is a student organisation that promotes cooperation, communication and integration amongst young people in Europe. As a non-governmental, politically independent, and non-profit organisation AEGEE is open to students and young people from all faculties and disciplines – today it counts 13 000 members, active in close to 200 university cities in 40 European countries, making it the biggest interdisciplinary student association in Europe. Fri, 08 Dec 2017 19:38:05 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.5.12 The European Parliament steps forward for the improvement of volunteering /the-european-parliament-steps-forward-for-the-improvement-of-volunteering/ /the-european-parliament-steps-forward-for-the-improvement-of-volunteering/#comments Thu, 09 Jan 2014 12:27:59 +0000 http://aegee.blogactiv.eu/?p=866 Recently, the European Parliament voted a report written by the rapporteur Marco Scurria, on “volunteering and voluntary activity in Europe”, where the objectives for this institution are established.

The European Parliament expresses  concern about the follow up to the European Year of Volunteering 2011 (EYV) and the implementation of the ILO Manual, a guide about recognition of volunteering, by Member States. EYV set some objectives that now the European Parliament encourages to promote:

  1. Creating an enabling environment for voluntary activities;
  2. enhancing the quality of voluntary activities by empowering organisers of such activities;
  3. giving due recognition to voluntary activities;
  4. raising public awareness of the importance of voluntary activities.

AEGEE welcomes these considerations and remembers that, as it is established in its position paper approved in Fall Agora Zaragoza 2013 about Recognition of Volunteering, the active participation of all groups in society is crucial to maintain the quality of the democratic life. Because of this, volunteer activities should be valuated as a real and valorised experience.

With this report, the European Parliament refreshes the goals already established at the EYV and encourages all the institutions involved to continue working to achieve the improvement of the volunteering situation in Europe.

The report proves that the situation of volunteering in European society is something that matters not only to European organizations such as AEGEE, but it is also a topic to be debated by relevant European institutions. Volunteering has a major impact in order to provide young people with competences and attitudes actually needed in the job market, as well as in the society. This is shown by the research done by the European Youth Forum on the impact of Youth Organizations in providing skills needed in the job market. Due to this understanding, volunteering should be supported as a factor of European integration and self development.

We see that there is a lack of precision in the ways to achieve the goals established in EYV and confirmed now. We take this report as a first step towards the development of real actions and accomplishment of the objectives

AEGEE also celebrates the optimism showed over the introduction of the European Skills Passport as a tool to provide “a comprehensive picture of volunteers’ skills to enable them to be officially recognized for both employment and learning purposes”. Therefore, we are looking forward to see that the implementation of the European Skills Passport is done according to the higher standards.

Written by Pablo Hernández, Policy Officer in Youth Participation

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Time is Money: volunteers’ time is given a value! /volunteers-time-given-value-money/ Sat, 09 Mar 2013 09:17:29 +0000 http://aegee.blogactiv.eu/?p=501 We all knew it, volunteers’ time is of great value. The time we dedicate to our projects and initiatives contributes to the development of Europe, both socially and economically. It also contributes to increase social capital or, in other words, it develops further cooperation among individuals and groups in the community. Moreover, a research carried out by the John Hopkins University measured it and announced that volunteers can contribute up to 5% of the GDP (Gross Domestic Product).

The new regulation on ‘financial rules applicable to the general budget of the Union’ has finally admitted this officially. It includes the possibility of giving economic value to the work of volunteers and including it as co-funding for a grant application under 60.000€. This means volunteers’ time can be given the value it deserves and be included in grant applications to European Institutions.

At AEGEE-Europe we very much welcome this change that will enable youth organizations to actually measure the contribution of its volunteers, therefore obtaining further support in their projects. We also consider this decision a significant step forward, in order to reach the goal of give the right value to voluntary activities. However, we are still far from the objective and we encourage European institutions and the Members’ States to proceed with next steps which will go toward a full appreciation of volunteer work, such as the recognition of the skills and competences which are acquired during the volunteer activities.

Written by Felipe González Santos
Policy Officer on Youth Participation of AEGEE-Europe

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Welcoming the European Youth Guarantee /youth-guarantee-unemployment-solution/ Wed, 12 Dec 2012 07:35:02 +0000 http://aegee.blogactiv.eu/?p=311 One week ago, on Wednesday Dec 5th, the EU Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, Mr László Andor, presented a new package of measures against unemployment. The job market is severely affected by the crisis, and the situation gets worse every month. We stand now at alarmingly high youth unemployment rates in Europe: an average 23% in the European Union, and in some countries like Spain and Greece, over 50%. It is true that youth unemployment was an endemic problem in many regions in Europe but the situation is derailed now, and this has moved the European Commission (EC) to finally include in the proposed measures the idea that has been advocated for by the European Youth Forum and other youth NGOs in Brussels for more than a year: to adapt to the European scale, the youth guarantee scheme that has worked quite well in some countries like Austria, Finland, Denmark and Sweden.

But what is exactly the European Youth Guarantee? It is the compromise to offer to young Europeans under 25 a traineeship or an opportunity to continue in education, within four months after they get unemployed. This tackles specifically the problem of social exclusion that long term unemployment can bring to people. The aim is to reverse the current trend of rising numbers of NEETs (stands for Not in Education, Employment or Training). The low rates of unemployment in the countries that already have set up this scheme are promising.

However, we in AEGEE see that this scheme raises some concerns that have to be taken into account, as it came up during the online discussion that Commissioner Mr. Andor held with young citizens on Friday. For instance: how can the European Commission enforce such a measure when they have no decision power on education policies? One of the possibilities is through the budget control systems put in place recently, especially for countries which have received economical support from EU.

Talking about money, the big question will be where to get all that money from (estimated costs around 4.000 – 6.000 euros per person, depending on the country). Ideally the Member States would be funding the scheme, but the European Commission pointed at the European Social Fund as an opportunity to get support. This Fund contains 76.000 million Euros for the period 2007-13. As the 2014-2020 Multiannual Financial Framework is still not agreed upon, the final number for the next seven years is still on air, and we can just hope it is not reduced.

Another concern for AEGEE is the risk that these employments and internships will end up being a source of cheap labour force for companies, affecting salaries and having a backfire effect. The implementation of the Youth Guarantee will require a brave collaboration from companies, and it should be monitored to prevent the misuse of the scheme and the proliferation of unstable or low-waged jobs, unpaid traineeships, and other forms ways to undervalue the work of young people.

What we want the EU Member States to take into account: the cost of implementing the Youth Guarantee (estimated by the ILO – International Labour Organization – in 0.2% of European combined GDP) will be small compared with the costs of not tackling the problem once and for all. A recent study by the European Policy Centre estimated that achieving the EU’s 75% employment rate target by 2020 would generate up to €1.2 trillion in extra revenues for EU Member States (7% of GDP). We hope this are strong enough numbers to convince the European Council to adopt the EC Recommendation as soon as possible. Ideally it should be approved in the Council of Feb 28th, 2013 and should start to work in 2014. And it is already late.

There were other measures included in the package presented by the European Commission, like advances in the Quality Assurance for Internships, or the setting up of a European Alliance for Apprenticeships. But none of them can compare with the potential impact of the Youth Guarantee. This is what the youth sector had been demanding: strong, brave decisions. Now AEGEE calls for the Member States to accept the challenge and approve in the Council its implementation.

Written by the Comité Directeur of AEGEE-Europe

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Conscientious Objection to military service: it is your right, and you should know it /consciousness-objection-is-your-right-and-you-should-know-it/ Wed, 26 Sep 2012 18:59:29 +0000 http://aegee.blogactiv.eu/?p=79 AEGEE-Europe was invited to the presentation of the Annual Report prepared by the European Bureau for Conscientious Objection (EBCO) that took place on Wednesday, 26th September. We support the right EBCO is fighting for: conscientious objection to military service, a right included in the European Convention on Human Rights, and part of the European Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. The meeting was hosted by the Member of the European Parliament, Nikos Chrysogelos.

 

MEP N. Chrysogelos, EBCO Chair F. Schneider, and EBCO researcher D. Brett

At the roundtable, relevant members of EBCO were present, including the main researcher of this year’s Report. During te presentation we learned that in spite of improvements in those countries where conscription still exist, there are still too many occasions where people who refuse to join the compulsory military service get severe sentences, and are sometimes even judged at military courts. Furthermore, sometimes at the end of their time in jail, they are conscripted, again and in case of refusal to join the army, they are put to trial again. Yes, this happens inside the European Union. If the candidates for membership of the EU are required to comply with the laws containing the right of Conscientious Objection, how is it possible that some countries can violate them repeatedly with impunity?

Other organizations like Amnesty International, the International Fellowship of Reconciliation, and the War Resisters’ International Right to Refuse to Kill Programme, offered their point of view on the problem. Thanks to them, we now know that even in countries where conscription is abolished (or suspended), militarisation of society is far from disappearing. They may not conscript people anymore, but they conscript our money. Defense chapters in European budgets have surprisingly survived the austerity measures much better than education, health, or science. 25 out of 27 Member States participate in military operations in Afghanistan and last year some member states participated in missions in Lybia and Somalia.

Even more worrying is the continuous attempt to militarise youth. By being present at music festivals, campaigning in educational centers, and lobbying through social media, not ot mention the special privileges offered to the military in access to education, they try to recruit young members of our society. In times of crisis and high youth unemployment, those campaigns take advantage of the situation, trying to become attractive for young people with less resources.

 

Luis intervening at the presentation of EBCO Annual Report

The intervention of Luis Alvarado Martínez, our president, stressed the fact that the conscription arrives at a crucial moment of students’ life, breaking up the storyline of their life. We have seen that our members, after years of working actively in AEGEE for values like democracy, peace and stability, and tolerance, got severely stressed when facing the moment of conscription. We consider that there are different and better ways to contribute to society than joining the military, and volunteering is on of them.

The right for Conscientious Objection exists on paper, so now we just need to make European youth aware of it, and stay alert to make sure that it is respected by their countries. This is the main aim of EBCO, and we will help them.

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