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Index I.

Introduction ; Editorial Board

II.

The Situation of Youth in Europe

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Youth in Crisis, Ska Keller, Member of European Parliament No Young Person is an Island, Saila Naomi Stausholm from Denmark Youth in Poland – a Hard Way to Adulthood, Bartłomiej Kozek from Poland Greece Today, Theo Haris from Greece Brain Drain or just Mobility? Delfina Rossi from Spain

III.

The Labour Market

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IV.

Education

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V.

Housing

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VI.

Democracy and Participation

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Youth Unemployment; Foundation for our Future? Lívia Magdošková from Slovakia The 61 million question, Reinhard Bütikofer, Member of the European Parliament Youth between YU and EU, Morana Starcevic from Croatia NEETs: Youth Social Exclusion, Raül Romeva i Rueda, Member of the European Parliament and Delfina Rossi from Spain

A Europe of Knowledge: Paradoxes and Challenges, Jana Bacevic from Serbia The Need for Increasing Youth Mobility in Europe, Daniela Di Mauro from Italy

Ending Youth Homelessness; More accessible Housing, Mary Anne Zammit from Malta Socially Just and Environmentally Sustainable Housing, Samir Jeraj from the UK Debt, Unemployment and Youth: a Southern European Story, Lídia Brun from Spain

Occupy Wall Street -”We Are What Democracy Looks Like!” Christoforos Pavlakis from Greece The Need for a European Youth Movement, Jan Philipp Albrecht, member of the European Parliament Europe’s Youth Must Not be Kept from Deciding Their Own Future!, Pettition for a Written Declaration 27/12 on Lowering the Voting Age to 16 Youth Empowerment: The Basic Income Grant, Michael Bloss from Germany Towards Economic Democracy, Peter Tatchell and Sebastian Power from the UK


I. Introduction Young people today have been suffering from the worst effects of the European economic and social crisis. Youth unemployment figures continue to make headlines across Europe. Perhaps the worst figure is the 55% youth unemployment rate in Spain. However youth unemployment is one face of the same dice - the cycle of unpaid internships, difficulties in accessing education, the lack of affordable housing, destruction of the welfare state and the financial debt young people take on to pay for their studies and living costs. We are paying for the consequences of a systemic crisis, but we are here to reclaim the future, a common future for Europe and the world where democracy go together with social justice and freedom. The Federation of Young European Greens believes emancipation is freedom from social, economic, cultural or any form of oppression. Emancipation means opportunities to create different social and sustainable ways of living. Emancipation powersdisempowerment. Emancipation means deciding today how we want to live tomorrow. The authors of this publication are from varied backgrounds – whether academic, members of the European Parliament or activists – and they tackle the challenge of emancipation from different perspectives. “Reclaim the Future!” has a comprehensive approach to youth emancipation, addressing unemployment, housing, education, democracy, participation, among other related topics and aims to catalyse discussion amongst people and policy makers to achieve a different Europe. All the articles in our publication are licensed under copyleft – so feel free to remix, reuse and share widely.

Reclaim the Future! Editorial Board 3


II. The Situation of Youth in Europe Youth in Crisis

Ska Keller, Member of the European Parliament

No Young Person is an Island Saila Naomi Stausholm from Denmark Youth in Poland – a Hard Way to Adulthood Bartłomiej Kozek from Poland Greece Today

Theo Haris from Greece

Brain Drain or just Mobility? Delfina Rossi from Spain

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Youth in Crisis

Ska Keller

Member of the European Parliament

RECLAIM THE FUTURE

We have all heard this: “The future belongs to you young people”. Like me, you have probably wondered why we have to wait for the future and who owns the present then? This statement carries two dimensions: on the one hand it states that the present belongs to the previous generation and that young people should wait until their time has come (i.e., when they are old). But on the other hand it also signifies that hope, the expectation of a better future, is the business of young people. Even if we might not agree with the statement, I think it carries a mainstream thought in society. Young people have to believe in a better future and build it; else it will not happen. However, as the feeling of hope begins to disappear, this positive vision of the future also fades. The people currently in power and those that have been in power before them have favoured an economic model that is crisisprone. Within each crisis, it’s mainly the “coming generations” who suffer from the unjust decisions (just as it’s the poor who suffer from unjust decisions of the rich). Of course, it is not only age that counts. Ideology and interest groups play a vital role here; the generational dimension is yet another factor. The economic situation is not the only case in point. Climate change and environmental issues are others. But the economic one is currently the most visible.

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So we are slowly losing the expectation of a better future, seemingly inherent to humans. With up to 50% of young people looking for work, mostly unsuccessfully, thinking positively becomes increasingly difficult. Still, even though the situation is gloomy for


“We have all heard this: “The future belongs to you young people”. Like me, you have probably wondered why we have to wait for the future and who owns the present then?”

most young people in most EU countries (which is not only due to the economic situation), there is something happening. Grassroots social movements have sprung up. The collective expression of anger and frustration has lead to increased awareness regarding people’s individual situations and has amplified the voice of those suffering from austerity. Further, movements in different countries have, at least to a certain extent, brought protest to a European level. To some extent, it has even become globalised. But this collective protest has remained oppositional, an expression of frustration. Apart from the demand for better democratic participation in decision-making there has been no clear expression of what people want, instead of austerity, instead of capitalism.

II. The situation of young people in Europe

policies. Therefore, it is not enough to respond to young people’s problems simply with youth policy. Young people have to be involved and active in all areas of politics. Because all politics affect them. Some now, some later, but they all will be affected. It’s not enough to wait for the future before we do the real thing. And it is not enough for a token young person to be on the stage. This misses the diversity of young people. Our lives are influenced by decisions made now; by people who are in power now. If we want to have a say, we have to work on all policy fields. The future is now.

Visit: Youthincrisis.eu

Of course, opposing government policies usually unites more people than formulating an alternative. But if there’s no alternative formulated, however vaguely, then you cannot expect things to suddenly move in a different direction. Those alternatives can of course be very different. There is no need to find the answer for all problems or to unite behind one single solution. Young people are diverse, they want different things and have different interests. They share certain phases of life and many - not all- have similar problems, but not necessarily the same ideas. Young people are especially and specifically (though differently) affected by the crises. Not just by the economic one, but also by the climate crisis. Yet these crises are not the product of unjust youth policy. They have been created by unjust social, economic and environmental

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No Young Person is an Island

RECLAIM THE FUTURE

“No man is an island, entire of itself.... any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.” John Donne (1572-1631).

Saila Naomi Stausholm from Denmark

Are we the lost generation? This seems to be the rhetoric of politicians and social scientists, when they address the problems facing young Europeans today. Youth unemployment, increasing asymmetrical globalization and competition, insecure jobs and increasing costs of education. Our future seems hopeless. Hopelessness seems to be the feeling of young Europeans. A decade of individualism and increasing competition for both jobs and education has had dramatic effects on the psychological health of our generation. Enormous increases in the need for psychological help and consumption of psychiatric medicine leaves us with the question; has our generation been abandoned? The increasing numbers of eating disorders, stress and depression seems to support the view of a lost and hopeless generation with no one to turn to. A “Generation of Islands”. Our generation grew up in a boom economy with the idea of endless possibilities for those who wanted it, took initiative, and worked hard. All dreams could come true, we learned, because globalization had opened up the world for us and economic growth meant infinite needs and wants for our young and bright minds could be met. Did that turn out to be wrong, as soon as the crisis hit. Today young Europeans are NINJAs: No Income, No Jobs and No Assets. As we are locked out of the job market, isolation grows, and we might as well be islands.

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“No man is an island, entire of itself.... any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.” John Donne (1572-1631)

Growing up believing that success is individual, the crisis hits young people hard psychologically. The failure to find employment is internalized, and the psychological affects of unemployment become even more severe as uncertainty and loneliness increase. Rushing through an education only to find that there is no need for the skills that you have learned will make anyone feel inadequate.

The depressed economy and minds The financial crisis, beginning in 2008, is the biggest crisis since the Great Depression, and both were caused by speculation in the financial markets. And both have had major social consequences that reach far beyond the people initially making risky investments. The knowledge of how a crisis can harm the mental well being of young people is far from new. Already in the 30’s research was being made on how young people had been affected by unemployment. But just as we forgot all about how liberalized financial markets could cause crises, our collective memory has forgotten that young people are at risk of long lasting psychological damage from the crisis. Adults and young people have the same experience of unemployment: superfluousness and loss of ambition. But because it happens during a period of transition, as one is trying to establish their own life, the effects are more long lasting for young people.

II. The situation of young people in Europe

to the labour market restrains our possibilities of growing subjectivity as young adults by forming our own lives. Therefore the social and psychological consequences of the crisis proportionately affects young people.

Time to bail out European youth One measure to help European youth could be a European guarantee for young people: after a maximum of 4 months of unemployment, an offer for a job, education or job training should be given. Actions towards job creation could be kicking off the economy through fiscal expansion policies – some of these projects could receive EU funding. Furthermore, the EU should increase investments in infrastructure, energy and research, increasing the supply of jobs in these sectors.

Not only is a bailout of European youth important for the ones suffering from the consequences of the crisis, but there would likely also be overall economic benefits - attractive to politicians of all colours. At the moment, the price of youth unemployment is estimated to cost us a staggering amount of €100 billion a year – equivalent to 1 % of the aggregate GDP of the EU. Furthermore a period of unemployment, when young, tends to harm ones attachment to the job market for the rest of ones life, increasing the risk of unemployment in the future and decreasing aggregate life income. These facts should make the case for action against youth The financial crisis has undoubtedly hit the unemployment self-explanatory, at least to those younger generation the hardest. Unemployment politicians who care. affects most those with the least experience, Establishing a secure economic framework for austerity policies have raised tuition costs and young people to establish themselves in the job cut funds for education, and our lack of access market and in their community is the first step

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“But we also need to act against the individualism of the past decades which has shaped young peoples minds and encouraged people to deal with their problems internally rather than as part of a community”

towards a generation of active contributors, text something we know our generation can and wants to be. But we also need to act against the individualism of the past decades which has shaped young peoples minds and encouraged people to deal with their problems internally rather than as part of a community. We need to build a school system which encourages inclusion and where everyone gets attention from teachers. We need to limit the competition between peers and increase a sense of community. In schools we need to break down the taboo of mental health issues and make sure help is available and that young people are advised about it. No person is an island, and young people should be helped through this crisis. The European continent is intertwined in numerous ways, and the crisis of our generation cannot be isolated to just one country or just one person. We need a European guarantee for young people to avoid the risk of a lost generation. We need to come together in the fight against youth unemployment. Acknowledging that economic and mental health issues are linked together is the first step in finding solutions. Further, we need to acknowledge that these problems cannot be solved individually, but need attention from lawmakers, schools and communities. Young people today really do have power and initiative and want to move on. Changes to the austerity consensus and individualist ideology will be what determines the future of our generation: will we become a “Generation of Islands”, or can we become active contributors to society as a “Yes We Can”generation? Let’s hope for the latter!

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RECLAIM THE FUTURE


II. The situation of young people in Europe

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Youth in Poland: A hard way to adulthood Bartłomiej Kozek From Poland

RECLAIM THE FUTURE

This article is an excerpt from the article on the situation of young people in Poland, created for the publication “Green New Deal in Social Policy in Poland”, which will be published in Autumn 2012 and available in Polish on the website of the Green European Foundation and Zielony Instytut – www.gef.eu and www.zielonyinstytut.pl How are young people in Poland changing? To understand the current situation, let us travel back in time. According to reports from the European Commission, 85% of people younger than 24 years old work with temporary contracts .. It was they – the well educated, knowing foreign languages and not so burdened with the past as their parents – that were to build capitalism in Poland. In the eyes of the neoliberal reformists such as Leszek Balcerowicz, the then-finance minister of the country, they were less infected with communist ideology and sceptical of the role of the state in economic and social policy. They were also more prone to new, individualist and consumerist lifestyles. Examples of spectacular careers, of new people engaging with the economic and political life in their thirties, were accompanied by the flourishing of marketing and advertisements, such as the television ads for Frugo juices, worshipping youth and flexibility1 . A rapid opening up of the transforming economy to the world created space for new jobs for “young” and “dynamic” people ready for ”the rat race”, ie. in the local divisions of global multinational companies. At the same time “old” workers lost their jobs in whole areas and divisions of industry – from textiles to mining.

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1 Elizabeth Dunn, Privatizing Poland: Baby Food, Big Business, and the Remaking of Labor (Culture and Society after Socialism), Cornell University Press 2004


“According to reports from the European Commission, 85% of people younger than 24 years old work with temporary contracts “

The first crisis in the job market which lead to the changes in the mindset of young people, occurred during the rule of the left-wing SLD-UP coalition in the 2001-2005 period, mainly as a result of the “cooling of the economy” by the previous rightwing AWS-UW coalition. This crisis was eased by the entrance of Poland to the European Union, that led to massive emigration, estimated at up to 1,1 million people2 . With the lowering of labour costs and rising levels of people working in the junk jobs sector, Poland came out before Spain as an European leader of junk employment3 . A new social category – the precariat – emerged in sociological analysis, more and more interested in young people working below their education skills, ie. in restaurants or call centres 4.

Stuck in precarious work It’s hard to be an optimist looking at Eurostat figures on the situation of young people in the Polish labour market. According to reports from the European Commission, 85% of people younger than 24 years old work with temporary contracts5 . Although this should, according to the enthusiasts of a more flexible labour market, shrink the levels of unemployment, it remains above the European average for the group under 25 years old. In December 2010, 24.3% of young Poles remained unemployed, while the average for the EU was 21%. In June 2012 these figures were at 24.8% and 22.6% respectively. Among 2 Polska straciła ponad 1,1 mln obywateli, za to PKB na głowę jest większy, Dziennik Gazeta Prawna, 23.12.2011, 3 Praca Polska 2010, Komisja Krajowa NSZZ „Solidarność”, Gdańsk 2010, 4 Iza Desperak (in collaboration with Judytą Śmiałek) Młodzi w Łodzi – prekariat z wyższym wykształceniem 5 Polska, czyli śmietnik, NowyObywatel.pl 28.12.2011

II. The situation of young people in Europe

the Visegrad countries – that are at a similar level of development – the situation is worse in Slovakia (36.5% in June 2012) and in Hungary (27.1%), while in the Czech Republic (19.1%) the levels of youth unemployment are lower than in Poland6 . The situation of young people in the labour market became one of the themes during the parliamentary elections in 2011. It made the news thanks to a series of press articles about people combining their studies with low paid, unstable jobs, adding further obstacles to their chances for career advancement. A Polish government report “Youth 2011”7 also highlighted the plight of young people. It had an ambitious goal of presenting the aspirations, lifestyles and the socio-economical situation of people going into adulthood. Its critics pointed out its simplifications, that led to portraying the division of young people between those with ambition and aspirations and the passive rest, that surprisingly mirrored the stereotypical visions of electorates of the two main, right-wing parties: PO and PiS. While praising the Polish educational boom and presenting the benefits of high education levels, there was no reflection in the report about low average median wages in big cities, paid to people just starting to participate in the labour market (ie. in Warsaw it dropped from 3.900 zlotys brutto in 2001 to 2.000 in 2008, that is from about €960 per month to lower than €500 in 7 years!). This was an effect of the emergence of a huge sector of junk jobs. The high level of unemployment of graduates in science studies 6 http://epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/cache/ITY_PUBLIC/331072012-BP/EN/3-31072012-BP-EN.PDF 7 Młodzi 2011, Kancelaria Prezesa Rady Ministrów, Warsaw 2011, http://zds.kprm.gov.pl/mlodzi-2011.

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“There is no modernisation impetus in the areas of a modern, green economy, such as public services, renewable energy or upgrading the energy efficiency, that could lead to tens of thousands of new, green jobs”

RECLAIM THE FUTURE

– 20% in the IV quarter of 20098 – puts into could lead to tens of thousands of new10green question the idea that the difficult situation of jobs . young people in the labour market was a result of studying humanities. Social insurance rates paid by corporations and workers differ depending on the type of contract, The problem is much deeper and lies in the low which promotes cheaper, precarious work. The employment rate, that according to Eurostat “Solidarity” trade union and the Greens are one was at 64.8% in 2011, while in the same time of the proponents of changing this situation and the averege for the EU-27 was 68.6%, in some abolishing these differences, which would remove countries being at around 75-80%. Although it is the financial benefit of junk jobs and support at one of the highest levels in years, there has people not working full-time . Donald Tusk’s been a stagnation in growth since the economic government is currently not willing to implement crisis in 2008, when it hit its all-time “high” of this, instead raising one of the components of the 65%. When we look at the levels of employment social insurance for full-time workers’ employers, by gender, we see that the gap between Poland that will probably only enlarge the junk job area and the European average within the male of the labour market or the grey economy. population is not so big (72.2% versus 75%), but it’s almost twice as big for women (57.6 versus 62.3%)9 . Quality or quantity in education? The relatively high levels of employment in Poland during the global economic crisis (that is more or less remaining at the same level while other European countries declined) is also – and this should be noted – the result of people emigrating to areas of higher wages in the EU, and also due to European funding, playing a similar role in the local economy as stimulus packages in other countries. There is no modernisation impetus in the areas of a modern, green economy, such as public services (heath care, education), as well as no big support for developing renewable energy or upgrading the energy efficiency, that 8 Agata Młodawska, Wiejski homo sovieticus vs miejski innowator. Uwagi o „Młodych 2011”, NowePeryferie.pl, 24.9.2011 9 http://epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/tgm/table.do?tab=table&lang uage=en&pcode=tsdec420&tableSelection=3&footnotes=yes& labeling=labels&plugin=1

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The difficulties for Polish youth start much earlier – on the lowest level of the educational system. The availability of nurseries and kindergartens, that have a huge impact on the development of children, is still limited by parents’ salaries or the region in which they live. The economic transformation lead to the closing of one third of the pre-school and three quarters of the nurseries network11. Although it has been rebuilding slowly in recent years, there are still problems, especially in the countryside and in the fast developing new districts of large cities. The data from 2007-2009 shows that 64% of children from 3 to 5 years old are attending preschool education. In the countryside this level is 10 Bartłomiej Kozek, Klimat na miejsca pracy, Zielone Wiadomości, 30.9.2011, 11 Julia Kubisa, Słownik kobiety i transformacja: polityka rodzinna, Bez dogmatu, nr 80/wiosna 2009


II. The situation of young people in Europe

even lower at 43.1%12 . In 2011 a law aimed at increasing the accessibility of child care for 0-3 year olds passed, but it’s too early to see if it is making any difference.

not a burden. The low childbirth rate is seen as an opportunity to make these expenses stay at the same level relative to the whole public expenditure and therefore to increase the quality of Polish education. The problem is New legislation, introduced by the centre-right that the current model of financing this sector PO-PSL ruling coalition, ceded all competences is not encouraging local authorities, that are regarding nurseries and kindergartens to the responsible for providing it, eager to invest in ministry of education. It also introduced basic it. On the contrary – many of them spend half levels of social protection for people working in of their finances on schools, and treating them the child care sector. Guaranteeing 5 hours free as a financial burden. The mechanism of the care had surprisingly negative side effects. It led education subsidy doesn’t oblige local authorities the permanently under-financed local authorities to spend it on education, which means they are to increase taxes on parents for the rest of their free to spend this budget on other priorities. Low children’s’ stay in public pre-school education. rates of birth are being used not for upgrading Although ZNP – the Polish Teachers Association the quality of educational services, but as an – gathered signatures for the idea of covering the excuse for closing smaller schools, in which costs of pre-school education by central, public a lower pupil-to-teacher ratio provides higher funds (the so-called education subsidy), and quality learning. A good idea would be to reward the ruling Civic Platform (PO) had a pledge to the local authorities that invest in smaller schools cover at least part of these costs with the central with some sort of financial bonus – a new grant government budget in their election manifesto13, or a bigger part of the current subsidy. This idea hasn’t been implemented. Without increasing the numbers of children attending 2011 was a year of increasing protests against pre-school education it is difficult to improve the school closures, in villages, small towns and in situation of women – especially young women big cities – and, if the data is correct, the rate – in the labour market. It is them who carry the of closures will continue to increase. 2011 saw biggest burden of caring for not only the children, 300 schools close, while in 2012 there are but the whole household and it is them who drop plans for a further 800 to 1,00014 such closures. out of paid work due to the lack of child care The local authorities are thinking of taking infrastructure. drastic measures, such as privatising almost the whole pre-school network in Piaseczno The second edition of the government document (Mazowieckie Voivodship)15. Schools are being “Poland 2030” - The Third Wave of Modernity” - at given not only to ad-hoc associations created last treats education as a public service, and the by local communities, that are taking this step cost of this sector is considered an investment as a last resort to prevent the closures, but 12 Rafał Bakalarczyk, Upowszechnianie, ale nie dla wszystkich, lewica.pl, 17.10.2011, 13 Następny krok. Razem. Program wyborczy 2011, http://platforma.org/media/dokumenty/Program_PO_100dpi.pdf

14 Łukasz Drozda, Jarosław Klebaniuk, 2012 rokiem cięć w edukacji, lewica.pl, 15.1.2012, 15 Małgorzata Zubik, Sprywatyzują publiczne przedszkola w Piasecznie?, Gazeta Stołeczna, 16.1.2012,

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“Now it’s not enough to be good you have to be better then the rest, at least to make it to the top 10%”

even to municipal companies taking care of waste disposal, as in Cieszanów (Podkarpackie Voivodship)16.

RECLAIM THE FUTURE

An idea to allow for a limited period of time to couple paid work with obtaining social assistance (such as unemployment benefits) emerged in “Poland 2030” - perhaps it would be a good idea to create a similar mechanism also for students, because for now, if they are regular students, they Studying in times of austerity cannot be registered as unemployed. Increasing investments in the social infrastructure of Higher education reforms, promoted and universities, such as dormitories or child care implemented by the current government, could also improve the situation for students – triggered the creation of DZS – Democratic right now, if they don’t get a place in the dorm Association of Students – an organization and they want to study in another city, they are defending the right to free education17. The forced to find themselves a place to stay on the reforms mean that people taking more than one commercial market. Even when renting a flat in subject – 6% of students – will have to pay for a bigger group they may find themselves in a the second and further subjects. From 2013, difficult situation, i.e. being forced to live without only 10% of the best students will have the right a formal contract with the landlord, which means to continue further education for free. they can be evicted almost any time. They may also be forced to accept higher rental costs, as New scholarships have been introduced, which they tend to increase when the academic year have replaced the previous ones, based on starts and students return to the cities where the level of individual faculties. They introduce they learn. competitiveness - a value growing in prominence – until recently you just had to have a high Bartłomiej Kozek (1987) is a journalist of “Zielone average mark to receive financial help. Now it’s Wiadomości” (“Green News”) - an internet and not enough to be good – you have to be better print magazine covering current events from the then the rest, at least to make it to the top 10% green perspective – www.zielonewiadomosci.pl. of students entitled to assistance on the basis He is a member of the Polish Greens – Zieloni of their merits. Students have to calculate what 2004, where he previously was the secretary is better for them – to learn hard and receive a general of the party and the co-president of the small scholarship (with changing proportions local group in Warsaw. One of the creators of the between expenditures on educational and social party’s programme on social issues – especially scholarships from 50:50 to 40:60), or to go regarding the labour market, pension system and find a junk job, which would then limit their and health care. Follow him on Twitter at www. chances of being entitled to social scholarships twitter.com/BartlomiejKozek due to their income exceeding even the raised thresholds for receiving such help. 16 Nie zamykajcie naszej szkoły!, NowyObywatel.pl, 26.1.2012, 17 http://www.demokratyczne.pl/

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RECLAIM THE FUTURE

Greece today

Theo Haris from Greece

Any article attempting to describe the situation in Greece today, the effects of the present national, European and global crisis, is bound to fail. The complexity of the challenge that Greece and its youth face is so overwhelming that books alone could provide sufficient space to untangle the amalgam of conflicting and many times contradictory elements at work today. For, besides the economic dimension, Greece is currently changing culturally, politically, socially, spiritually – and this is reflected in the broken dreams and the simultaneous cultural resistance that characterize Greek youth today. It is an exciting place to live at the moment. Greece currently faces a major restructuring of patterns that have been shaped during the past 180 years; therefore the understanding of its situation necessitates a brief historical overview. Since its inception and after the assassination of its first governor Ioannis Kapodistrias in 1831 -the assassination for which the files of the Foreign Office still remain classified-, Greece has been ruled mostly by an elite (the 1%) which has been directly influenced by foreign powers: the UK before World War II, the USA thereafter. This combination has kept Greeks wary of the state and the intervention of the Great Powers, memories of which are mostly bitter –and this of course includes today’s “life-saving” package of the Memoranda. During the Cold War, Greece belonged politically and culturally to the West – my generation grew up watching the Dynasty. After the fall of the Soviet bloc, the neoliberal agenda spread in Greece unhindered: television shows, such as Beverly Hills 90210, promoted “shopping therapy” with credit cards while aggressive advertising implied consuming through loans as social success.

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“... although the spark fades from people’s eyes and smiles from their faces, the demise of this dream is perhaps the greatest gift of this “crisis”.

The 1999 stock exchange scandal ensued, in which more than €100 billion, most of the Greek savings, changed pockets (the details of the scandal escape this article, but a decent discussion can be found here). But by then, Greeks were already drunk with the prospect of acquiring a German lifestyle – and the corresponding ecological footprint. And, of course, during the 2000s they attained it: through loans. Thus 10 million people and their businesses ended up owing over €120 billion to unscrupulous banks, which then started collecting houses, cars, land, the lot – and still are. Greeks were taught during these two decades that happiness is found in ever-increasing material consumerism and in the amount of envy in the eyes of neighbours (in Greece and outside of it). We allowed this hubris to happen – and now it’s time for the Nemesis. The punishment is that this fantasy is over. The young people of Greece now feel that they cannot pursue their dreams. This is perhaps the most intense feeling that pervades the streets of Athens (where the “crisis” unfolds in full scale). And although the spark fades from people’s eyes and smiles from their faces, the demise of this dream is perhaps the greatest gift of this “crisis”. For it was finally a nightmare: built on greed and fuelling corruption, disregard for the other and global injustice. And it certainly hasn’t led to true happiness, but rather to the triumph of appearances: of the plastic face and the fake smile. Freeing our minds from this chain is our opportunity now: the transition from defining our own selves based not on our belongings, on what we have, but on our inherent human qualities, on who we are as individuals. Many people are making this shift, realizing it is the sole way out of what essentially is a crisis of

II. The situation of young people in Europe

perception; many don’t, locked in the illusion of reclaiming a “glorious” past which is of course a bubble that’s burst. Greater freedom awaits the former, heavier depression the latter. Nowadays, you see both in Greece. Of course, the situation is mostly hard and cruel. Greek youth feel betrayed. They feel betrayed by the politicians and the financial elite of the country, by its journalists, its police, its trade unions. They feel betrayed by the fragmented workforce which hasn’t been able to stage a decent strike that would last, say, for two weeks until the smothering measures of the Memoranda are lifted. They feel betrayed by their parents who voted once more for the conservative elite of the two-party system (including the Trojan horse of the “Democratic Left” party) during the last elections. And they feel betrayed by themselves: either because they fell into the trap of comfort during the past two decades and now lose their “rights” or because they haven’t managed to overturn the rotten system and reclaim the future. Hence there is also a significant amount of guilt involved; and even though Greeks are heavily responsible for this chaos, this has been blown way out of proportion. After all, it seems convenient for the political elite (both in Greece and in the entire Western world) to cast off its own responsibility and blame the laziness or caginess of an entire people rather than to have a sincere look at the inherent contradictions which besiege the current economic and financial system. If it is “Greek laziness” that brings down the globalised economy as we know it, then those Greeks must be the most powerful people on the planet! While if it is endemic “corruption”, as frau Merkel claims, then it should always be remembered that one of

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“A segment of the Greek youth feels empowered. A thousand things take place at the neighbourhood level, actions that don’t make it to the front news of the Financial Times, or even the Greek press”

the greatest scandals of modern Greece involves bribes given by a German company, Siemens. How do people handle this Gordian knot? Many seek a way out, they emigrate. But the feeling I personally perceive from people who leave is that of sadness and of abandoning your beloved in times of need. Moreover, there’s so much going on here now that many of my friends who lived abroad have actually returned. Others find their way to rage, extremism and polarization. Since the universal needs for justice, safety, security and dignity are not met, a significant part of the population has turned to the populist, Far Right party “Golden Dawn”, which presents itself as an extra-institutional, purist organization; a development that brings grave portent for Greek society, striking straight at its psyche. Others cannot take it any more: we now witness one suicide every three days approximately. This is the tragic reality of the “saved” Greece.

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(a huge electricity tax), people from the neighbourhood either help reinstate electricity or offer connection from their own houses. In many neighbourhoods, there is a free exchange of goods and services taking place, a giving that has been unprecedented in recent history and which indicates that all has not failed, that the hardship awakens humanness inside large numbers of people. Urban agriculture and ecocommunities have started to appear, while the first festival of collectives fostering solidarity and cooperation took place last October, with over 20 participating groups.

These structures are only just taking their first baby-steps in Greece, and they need time to be diffused into the general populace. But they clearly form the seeds of a new future, where the collective values system of this country won’t be characterized by a drive for riches, fame and power, but by solidarity, autonomy and personal responsibility for the neighbourhood. On the other hand, others struggle with all their These seeds are currently just sprouting, like might to reverse the tide – and they face a hard a seedling that finds its way through the cracks task ahead of them. They realize that the only in the pavement. Now that in Greece the whole way out of the mess is to assume personal pavement has cracked, these seeds are slowly and political responsibility, to foster unity in a finding their way into the sun where they can divided population, and to create exactly those bloom to their fullest. structures which will meet the aforementioned needs autonomously and at the grassroots level. This is one of the most vital aspects of today’s “crisis”: that a segment of the Greek youth feels empowered. A thousand things take place at the neighbourhood level, actions that don’t make it to the front news of the Financial Times, or even the Greek press – perhaps thankfully. Structures of solidarity against the incredibly inhumane taxes are being set. When one’s electricity is being cut because they didn’t pay the haratsi

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II. The situation of young people in Europe

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Brain Drain or just Mobility? Delfina Rossi from Spain

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With the rate of youth unemployment hitting 50% in some Southern European countries and with a lack of hope for the future, young people are leaving their countries to get a job, to study or just to survive. Ferran is one of those persons; he is from Barcelona and is currently working in Edinburgh. He recognised that he “never believed he would be forced to migrate to Europe to begin an independent life”, he remembers that he “was always dreaming about learning more languages than just Catalan and Spanish, but he was not expecting to be forced to learn English so quickly to get a job.” As Ferran explains, he was “part of the lost generation, a whole generation with studies but without any employment offers, with dreams about the future but without the means of achieving them”. Indeed, worldwide there are 75 million unemployed young people (12.6% of the total population). Despite the fact that youth unemployment is highest in North Africa - 27.9% and lowest in East Asia - 9%, in some European countries like Spain, Portugal, Italy, Ireland or Greece, roughly one in every two young persons is unemployed. (Source: ILO 2011) In Spain particularly, there is a two-sided phenomenon: on one hand there is group of unemployed young people who are early school leavers, mainly because of social problems plus incentives in the construction sector which needed cheap and unqualified workers. On the other hand, there is a second group of young workers who are considered to be overqualified. Today, you can find economists working in bars or physicists working in supermarkets. Last year the Catalan Regional Minister for Universities, Mr. Mena, recommended that unemployed

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“The Catalan Regional Minister for Universities, Mr. Mena, recommended that unemployed persons with degrees should “take the first flight to London and start serving coffees”.

persons with degrees should “take the first flight to London and start serving coffees”. Indeed, young people today are the most qualified generation ever and the politicians hold open an exit door to more precarious jobs in Europe as the solution to unemployment. The problem is that despite social change, there was no “good” structural reform of the industry and the labour market. Spanish local, regional and state governments joined with the EU in celebrating the “Spanish miracle”, the boom based on a housing and financial bubble. During this period of GDP growth; the tax burden on the wealthy did not increase, investment in R & D did not expand and the transformation of the energy sector was only briefly mentioned. It is true that despite this fact, larges Spanish corporations have been performing well, such as Telefonica, Reposol or Inditex, but with no positive repercussion for low and middle income classes. In other words, Spain has not yet started a green revolution of its economy; it has instead committed itself to the old construction sector bubble and financial speculation.

II. The situation of young people in Europe

says “we are leaving a face to face battle against the powerful establishment”. In this context, 70% of Spanish youth is willing to emigrate to work or study, while the European average is 53% (source: Euro barometer 2011). In a report titled “Young emigrants are more than high qualified”, the Avalot organisation explains that the 2012 increase in youth unemployment for those holding university degrees was 15.1% in Catalonia. That same year, the annual increase in Catalan youth emigration was 9.26%. Compared to 2009, 30% more young Catalans are living abroad. In Catalonia and Spain, likewise in Portugal and Greece, there is a clear brain drain. Hopefully for Europe, 42% of young Catalans are living in France, Germany, Andorra or Switzerland, but 36% are migrating to South America.

Indeed, from the global south it is difficult to understand why someone would leave Europe. But for young Europeans this has become a regular answer to the question: What’s next? While only a few years ago Southern Europe was receiving huge waves of migration from South America, Africa and Asia, today young educated The crisis is the consequences of this European are crossing the Atlantic to find a job. unsustainable economic model, which benefits In Portugal, thousands of young unemployed the 1% at expenses of the 99%. Even worse, professionals are leaving the country to migrate today the European recipe to create jobs never to former colonies such as Angola, Mozambique deals with the real problem: the demand side of and Brazil. Greece, Ireland and Italy are also the labour market. Their structural reforms are losing en masse their high educated young based on more flexibility to hire and fire, without people. any security, and an increase in student fees. But what is worst is that these leaders have all Freedom of movement in the EU is considered the weapons (social and mass media control) to a social asset, but what the picture of migration make people feel guilty for being unemployed or flows is showing is that only high educated powerless for having to ask for help. As Ferran unemployed people are able to migrate and get

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“While only a few years ago Southern Europe was receiving huge waves of migration from South America, Africa and Asia, today young educated European are crossing the Atlantic to find a job”

a job elsewhere in Europe, at the expense of other workers or resulting in a general reduction in wages. The massive problem of long term unemployment and unqualified young people in Southern Europe is not solved through mobility in the European Union. The EU is a Union for the elite, where you have to have a masters and know two languages before you can move around but still with difficulties in maintaining your social rights, such as pension and unemployment benefit. The problem of youth unemployment in southern Europe needs European answers, but such answers have to involve a change in the production and economic system so that high qualified workers can get a job and unqualified workers have the prospect of decent living conditions. Europe has to open its borders, make it easier to retain ones’ rights, learn languages, improve transport connections, increase cooperation between universities and schools, and make it easier to return home. Emancipation means also the freedom to decide where to live. Catalonia and Spain will experience an exodus of skilled workers with terrible effects on their economies, especially for sectors like health or research. Moreover, forced economic migration is totally unfair: there are resources in the south and in Europe to redistribute wealth in a way that people can freely choose where to leave. That is what we need to achieve.

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II. The situation of young people in Europe

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III. Labour Market Youth Unemployment; Foundation for our Future? Lívia Magdošková from Slovakia The 61 million question Reinhard Bütikofer, member of the European Parliament Youth between YU and EU Morana Starcevic from Croatia NEETs: Youth Social Exclusion. Raül Romeva i Rueda, member of the European Parliament and Delfina Rossi from Spain

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Youth Unemployment; foundation for our future? Lívia Magdošková from Slovakia

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The European Union is undergoing a difficult and challenging period. The economic recession and financial crises has created a decisive point in the further development and cooperation among the nations of Europe. These hard times are emphasized by social unrest, lack of social and public services and, as well, a worsening situation in the labour market. The demand for jobs by far exceeds job offers and the unemployment rate is reaching critical levels. In particular, young people have always been a precarious social group and their employability chances are much lower than the rest of the working population. Is this the best way for young people to begin their adult lives? In this essay, we take a look at the youth unemployment situation in the EU and propose some solutions to reverse these negative trends. Unemployment is characterized by an incapacity of the labour market to provide job placements for job seekers. Reasons for unemployment may have various causes and may lead to different types of unemployment; e.g. classical, structural, cyclical, frictional, etc. In the current recession, more and more people are involuntarily unemployed. Despite willing and being able to work, there is a lack of job offers, or places do not correspond to their education and background, or they are inadequately remunerated and cannot provide themselves with a secure financial basis for a decent living standard. According to the latest statistics1, the unemployment rate in the EU equals 10.4 % (July

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1 Available at: <http://epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/cache/ ITY_PUBLIC/3-31072012-BP/EN/3-31072012-BP-EN. PDF>


â&#x20AC;&#x153;Nowadays, youth unemployment accounts for 22,6%, or 5.472 million of unemployed persons up to the age of 25.â&#x20AC;?

2012) - 25.112 million people. The difference in the rates between Eurozone and the EU as a whole has been equal since the beginning of the crisis, whereas previously, the Eurozone countries showed much lower levels. The youth unemployment rate, whoever, tends to be much higher, often twice as high and sometimes even higher, than the general rate. Nowadays, youth unemployment accounts for 22,6%, or 5.472 million of unemployed persons up to the age of 25.

III.Labour market

creation of alternative job opportunities and our perception of work as a whole must also begin to change.

As we can see, the statistics reports are not positive and for this reason there are already many people researching this dissatisfying situation looking for suitable solutions. The most important economic area to focus on is the general macroeconomic strategy. Young people should be supported through employment policies that lead to better integration of young The numbers considerably differ among people into the labour market, include youth in countries, e.g. in Spain, the yoiuth unemployment the decision-making process and increase their rate is 52,9 %, and rates are also quite high in participatory level in social life. Greece, Lithuania, Portugal, or Slovakia. On the other hand, the lowest rates are in Germany, The EU is now using various instruments for Netherlands and Austria, varying between 8-9 labour market inclusion; European Social Fund, %. However, it is important to realize that the Programme PROGRESS 2007-2013, EURES rates do not reach high numbers because of network, or Life Long Learning Programme3. full-time study. This group is not included as the There are also already some supportive tools rates are calculated by number of unemployed in areas of youth entrepreneurship, trainings or as a percentage of the labour force as defined internships. However, their extent and efficiency by the ILO2. will not solve all the problems and they have negative results, e.g. abuse of cheap labour, Therefore, EUROSTAT also calculates youth non-permanent or full-time jobs, lack of financial unemployment ratios that represent the share support for implementing various programmes. of unemployed youth compared to the adult population, and these are much lower than the Further to these programmes, other areas, other rates (Spain 19%, other countries around specifically education, guidance and counselling 10% or less). The worsening situation does not programs, cooperative approach among nations, paint a colourful future, a future aggravated by firms and associations, can also offer be possible population growth. Technological progress and areas for action. We cannot neglect the negative rationalizations must therefore focus on the impacts of unemployability on psychological, and consequently physical, health of young people. 2 Based on the ILO definition, Eurostat defines unemploThe incapability and impossibility of integration yed persons as persons aged 15 to 74 who: - are without work; - are available to start work within the next two weeks; - and have actively sought employment at some time during the previous four weeks

3 Young European Parliament. Available at: <http://nuke. young-parliament.eu/BEPARTOFIT/SocialIssues/Labourinclusion/tabid/102/language/en-US/Default.aspx>

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â&#x20AC;&#x153;The current environment based on greed, competition, financial gain, unsustainable material consumption and indifference to a healthy environment cannot provide the vital place for youth and their engagementâ&#x20AC;?

into the labour market has left thousands in despair, with low self-esteem, sometimes leading to addiction and criminality. Generally, such circumstances destroy enthusiasm, personal and professional development, goodwill, positive approaches, dreams, and take away expectations of a decent life. Is this the desirable foundation for our future? Does this condition enable positive and sustainable development? Hardly. So we have to look closer at alternatives on which we can build our future, a future that our predecessors are failing to secure us within the crumbling economic system, a future will also be favourable for our descendants. If we would like to find a suitable solution to unemployment, we have to think beyond the current unsustainable model and do much more than fight a half-hearted system where

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many of our needs, requirements, protests and demonstrations are not reflected in policy-making. On the one hand, incentives in employment policy, vocational trainings and support for young entrepreneurs are beneficial and inevitable. But they are not sufficient. At present, we are facing both inflexible labour market with inadequate job supply and an inappropriate educational structure not reflecting labour market needs. Young people with higher education are not able to find corresponding jobs which reflect their knowledge and education and therefore cannot assert themselves in areas of interest, while young people with low education have few job opportunities which offer sufficient income. It is necessary to restructure educational systems on the intra-national and international level, and enable young people to gain knowledge and


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practical skills in numerous and pro-community areas. It should be done in a more humane, non-formal and peer-to-peer way, and access to cross-cultural and international activities that act as an inexhaustible well of experience, motivation, tolerance and self-growth, should be increased. In addition, environmental education should be an inseparable part of education early on in the education system. We must make sure children are taught to be socially and environmentally responsible, in order to reduce current adult indifference to our surroundings. Perhaps this will also lead to increased interest in social and green jobs. Unemployment cannot be solved solely through centralised policy, the implementation of practical solutions needs to be decentralised. This would necessarily entail cooperation amongst different levels of government, different actors, stakeholders and organisations. Businesses and firms cannot rely just on market principles and avoid any social responsibility - they must also play their part in building a sustainable, socially just community. However, this responsibility is hard to find within the capitalist model. Therefore, cooperation amongst citizens at a local level is crucial in realising community needs. Youth associations and organisations must have significant voice together with other relevant actors, e.g. municipalities, citizens, firms and businesses, and other organizations, in codeveloping activities and co-drafting schemes for social groups inclusion and economic models in the area.

socially and environmentally sustainable way of living. Creating the atmosphere of belonging, responsibility, self-awareness, accessible education and information for youth, and at the same time providing them with the space for creativity and healthy living, supporting their involvement in socio-economic development, as well as in international cooperation is all vital for young people. The current environment based on greed, competition, financial gain, unsustainable material consumption and indifference to a healthy environment cannot provide the vital place for youth and their engagement. Also, an absence of any basic income and available and accessible social infrastructure, are obstacles to achieving independence and maturity. Community projects can provide the engagement and space to begin to address this isolation, alienation and damaging competition Such projects could also bring more economic opportunities for local needs and mutual satisfaction. To secure the sustainability of community projects, it is important to have a stable flow of investment within the area, both economic and social. Differences in development and economic progress among nations and regions are in many cases very significant. Levelling these imbalances is a basic aim of the EU. However, the process is very complicated. Despite structural funding and various programmes bringing opportunities to poor regions, the distribution of these funds is not fair or transparent and has not reversed regional inequality.

An alternative way to secure the flow of investment Networking and open source activities can provide for less developed areas can be to implement a rich knowledge source and can encourage a alternative monetary systems or exchange

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systems. Such systems would reflect the real value of products and services based on the co-decision of the local authorities and citizens. Further to this, zero-interest public banks and loaning systems would serve as a sustainable financial system and would create sufficient capital for investing in necessary infrastructure projects. Young people must join together to create both a better present and future. We must work with allies on all levels to create common strategies. There are many declarations and political statements representing young peopleâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s needs, e.g. the recent EU Youth Report4 prioritising youth employment, health and inclusion and recognising the need for greater action by the EU and member states. But we must go further then just recognition political rhetoric. Interest groups and associations of young people, organizations, young entrepreneurs, young political leaders, young farmers and many others, need to create local connections to exchange ideas and to work in solidarity. Youth representatives can consequently advocate these interests with local bodies, like schools, municipalities, firms and enterprises. The progress of digital technologies enables localities to connect and share practises, and enables the creation of international activities and exchanges. Cooperation instead of competition is vital for creating these new possibilities. We need to create the space for mutual understanding and comprehension, we have to recognize the mutual interdependence and, at the same time, preserve individual autonomy and dignity. 4 EC. EU Youth Report calls for employment and social inclusion to be top priority.

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In conclusion, it is worth re-emphasizing that resolving youth unemployment, isolation, alienation and disaffection will necessarily mean structural changes. We can no longer accept the simplistic dichotomy of bottom-up or topdown approaches. We need a network system of coordination and communication amongst all stakeholders, organisations and individuals. Decisions on local, national or supranational levels will never be sufficient unless they reflect the cooperation of all stakeholders and their needs, and unless they enable and actively support local autonomy and sovereignty and youth inclusion. Links: EUROSTAT. Unemployment statistics. <http:// epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/statistics_explained/ index.php/Unemployment_statistics#Youth_ unemployment_trends> EUROSTAT. Unemployment statistics. <http://epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/statistics_ explained/images/1/13/Youth_unemployment %2C_2011Q4_(%25).png> UN.YouthUnemployment. <http://www.un.org/ esa/socdev/unyin/documents/ch02.pdf> OECD. Youth employment. <http://www.oecd. org/development/povertyreduction/43280339. pdf>


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The 61 million question

Reinhard Bütikofer

Member of the European Parliament

61 million, that is roughly the number of young people in the European Union. Shall we talk about their plight or about their power? Shall we address the fact that every fourth young person does not have a job and that in some southern EU countries the youth unemployment ratio has passed 50 percent? Shall we dwell on the fact that this is probably Europe’s best educated young generation ever representing great potential for change? Obviously, we have to deal with the present contradictions as they are. On one hand, massive youth unemployment disillusions us: “social Europe” appears as an empty promise or even a deception. Even when European leaders finally start taking note of the issue in their summit world and agree on what they grandiosely portray as a “youth guarantee” - promising a job, educational or training opportunity for very unemployed youth within four month - there is a certain lie hidden in the promise, because they shy back from assigning the funds needed to implement a real European youth guarantee. On the other hand youths are in motion. We’re presently seeing more active youth movements in more European countries than we have in a while. Young people are making their voices heard. And they are connecting across our continent, not letting themselves get restricted to their regions of origin. De facto they are growing up being more European than older generations ever were even though they may wonder whether their European citizenship will allow them to really shape and own Europe in the future.

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â&#x20AC;&#x153;We Greens want the Youth Guarantee Scheme to provide sustainable and long-lasting solutions for job creationâ&#x20AC;?

Institutions matter! Not a singe democratic, social, cultural or environmental transformation has ever been successful without grappling with existing institutions, without finding ways of making use of them and/or creating and establishing new institutions to represent their own new goals and perspectives. This is why the European youth movement must also take measure of European institutions, find ways of utilizing them and ways of promoting institutional change in order to facilitate the realization of its own aspirations. We European Greens want European institutions

III. Labour Market

to pay more attention to youth issues, to be better answerable to young people, to allow for wider participation of young people and to provide platforms for a more dedicated pursuit of the interests of young people. I would like to present here ideas regarding institutional change that we are discussing within the EGP, notably in an editorial group on youth policy with strong FYEG involvement.

Youth Guarantee The Youth Guarantee has recently been adopted by the European Council. It must be financed

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sufficiently to ensure that all young people under the age of 25 years receive a good-quality offer of employment, continued education, an apprenticeship or a traineeship within a period of four months of becoming unemployed or leaving formal education. The necessary funding for this effort cannot be left to the member states, because the ones that need it most find it most difficult to find the revenue for it. Therefore, it should be a community effort. Still this is not enough. The Youth Guarantee should ensure inclusiveness within the labour market. Job offers, education and training programmes should be individually tailored to the needs of the individual young person - including those with special needs. Social businesses with diverse workforces should get extra support. We Greens want the Youth Guarantee Scheme to provide sustainable and long-lasting solutions for job creation. The Youth Guarantee should also provide special support in case young people want to establish their own projects. The founding of social enterprises, start-up businesses and non-profit NGOs should be equally supported.

Youth Fund The EU budget is obviously a core tool to refocus European policy towards young people. Youth issues must be mainstreamed throughout the EU’s Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF). A MFF that reduces the EU’s funding of research and development and innovation is short changing today’s youth but also future generations. Any kind of public investment must also consider the impact on young people. However, in the present crisis there also must be an extra and direct effort to address the pressing

burden of wide spread youth unemployment. Therefore, we demand the establishment of an extra Youth Fund. This Youth Fund must be part of the EU budget, extending the existing EU Youth programmes. It should include financing for youth entrepreneurship (particularly social entrepreneurship), strong mobility instruments for non-academic youth and a financing for a European Civil Peace Corps and civil society activities.

European Peace Corps In the appeal “We are Europe! Manifesto for re-building Europe from the bottom up” many renowned European citizens and leaders have called for a European Year of Volunteering for Everyone as a response to the European crisis. The initiators explained their proposal by arguing: “We need a European civil society and the vision of younger generations if we are going to solve the burning issues of today. ... The European Year of Volunteering for Everyone ... forms a self-help organisation of creative disobedience, the countervailing force to the power of the European and national elites that exist in politics and business.” We Greens support this initiative. Indeed, we already proposed a similar initiative in 1999 in the Gahrton Report to the European Parliament. We believe that introducing a European Peace Corps consisting of volunteers of all ages, classes and backgrounds will help creating a new debate about what Europe means to her citizens. This Peace Corps will be co-organised between the European institutions and the

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“In order to make the impacts of EU legislation on young people more transparent we demand Youth proofing of all regulatory and administrative measures taken at the EU level.”.

European civil society. Every single citizen of the European Union should have the opportunity to experience this volunteering on a European level. Activist could use such a volunteering scheme to build trans-European connections; to directly counteract the many national and even chauvinistic divisions that have been increasing as an effect of the European crisis; to organize themselves as a European youth force able to intervene in political and economic and democratic struggles.

Youth Convention Greens have long advocated for a new European Convention to democratically promote the necessary next steps of European political integration. In order to make young people’s voices heard more clearly as part of this process, we also propose establishing an EU Youth Convention. Here young people under 30 years, representing both organised and non-organised youth, would come together helping to shape the institutional future of the European Union. The results of this Youth Convention should be formally introduced into the deliberations of the general European Convention, the European institutions and the member states.

Youth Proofing of EU Policies

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two new policy instruments. Firstly, Youth Proofing. In order to make the impacts of EU legislation on young people more transparent we demand Youth proofing of all regulatory and administrative measures taken at the EU level. Youth organisations are to be heard in the implementation of youth proofing. Secondly, we want to use the European semester more efficiently. We support that Youth emancipation becomes a regular item in the country-specific recommendations that are part of the European semester. Member states must be obliged to actively involve youth organisations in the process of developing their own reform agendas under the European semester. We Greens will propose that the European Parliament will regularly organise extra youth hearings in this context.

Education must learn new lessons One of the sectors where institutional change is most important is education. We must open the educational system. The whole system of formal education should be reformed. Today it is organised in a linear, one-way direction and leaves little or no place for entering educational system at a later stages. We urge the opening of educational systems to multiple entrance and exit points, avoiding “dead-end” diplomas and offering opportunities of horizontal mobility between more theoretical and general education and the more vocational tracks.

While the Youth Convention would be an ideal instrument source for youth involvement in the process of right-sizing the European institutions, we also demand that youth concerns are We acknowledge that English has become and given more attention in the everyday work of is widely accepted as the lingua franca of today. the European Union. Hence, we put forward Thus, we support English language education in

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formal curricula, from the earliest age, Europe wide, while not undermining the cultural value of other languages. We call for democratisation of education institutions by overcoming the current focus on the elitist model of high academic strata. The recognition of vocational experience and of informal/non-formal learning processes should provide mobility between the different tracks of occupational education and academic or professional education. We should promote the dual system of vocational training and education. In terms of transition rates, of reducing the rate of youth unemployment, of salaries and of skill formation, the dual system of vocational training and education is the most successful in Europe. Systems combining school education with internships and vocational training-at-the-workplace produce much poorer results, because they do not consider that skill formation and youth employment are the social responsibility of their economies´the companies that contribute to their economy. Within the framework of social partnership, state, firms and trade unions should cooperate in the process of skill formation. Introducing this dual system of vocational training and education must be accompanied by re-inventing the framework of social partnership and social responsibility of firms

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Youth between YU and EU Morana Starcevic from Croatia

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We’ve all heard of PIIGS (GIPSI) countries and the devastating effects of the crisis on their societies, but less is heard about the non-EU countries in the neighbourhood. Croatia, being the accession country, was swayed to take the EU path, for better or for worse, thus joining the PIIGS countries and ranking 3rd behind Greece and Spain with its youth unemployment rate at 39%1 and rising.

The crisis cliché Credit rating agencies recommended and state ordered austerity measures are breaking the last bastions of the socialist heritage - the welfare state - with the ever-rising student fees, privatization of the healthcare system and destruction of pension funds thus offloading all the risks which were taken by the (international) banks to the nation-states and their citizenworkers. Solidarity that was once a precondition for society is being wiped out, strategically and meticulously, creating the neo-liberal shark tank of every man for him self - women, youth, migrants are forgotten in this paradigm. The once selfexplanatory and logical existence of my parents’ generation - with preconditions of free education, free healthcare, a sure job after university in one of the nationalized factories with shares in the company and a (limited but existent) say in the company’s management, consciously and happily giving a part of their wage to the pension system believing that the future generations will do the same for them... - has been replaced by a precarious and “flexitarian” existence of daily fear for tomorrow. This scenario has become very familiar in today’s European nation-states,

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1

http://www.datosmacro.com/en/unemployment/croatia


“Croatia, being the accession country, was swayed to take the EU path, for better or for worse, thus joining the PIIGS countries and ranking 3rd behind Greece and Spain with its youth unemployment rate at 39% and rising”

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but it has been coming into being for decades, slowly but surely normalizing the labour market flexibility - in front of the global market in the name of economic growth, in front of the citizen-worker in the name of democracy, in front of women in the name of victories of feminism and care for family life - and in front of the youth in the name of youth emancipation and self-governance.

systems: education, healthcare and pensions, catholic indoctrination, ethnic hate, daily prime time news filled with scenes of workers strikes, right wing populism and “left wing” populism - neither of which offered any solutions to the situation we were in, and then the 2008 crisis came...

It is easy to wave aside the stories of our elders who lived in “the communist regime with a human face” as an optimism of memory but Fukoyama’s “end of history” has not happened in Croatia with the transition to a monstrous hybrid of Balkan style capitalism as it has not happened anywhere else. The First Presidents Tuđman’s dream in the 1990s - also, the only economic strategy of Croatia as an independent state - was to create a “hundred wealthy Croatian families”- the Croatian one percent - as the vassals of the newly founded feudal state. Post-civil war transition, in which most of today’s youth (including myself) grew up, bestowed roll models who achieved the capitalistic dream for themselves and their families bred on corruption, fuelling internal and external conflict, exploitation and war profiteering by reaping the profits and state subventions with no accountability. Decades of the practice of this rotten economy are hard to eradicate, even when the reforms assure EU accession and escape from the “savage Balkans”.

Workers struggle = Youth struggle?

So, to re-cap: the youth raised in Croatia in the last two or three decades were witness to and formed by: a civil war, post-war transition resulting in economic, moral and social break down, promises of prosperity in the alliance with “the civilized world” in NATO and the EU, degradation of social rights and all crucial social

Even though Croatia’s unemployment rate and youth problems were similar to those in the other GIPSI states (and the lionhearted lazy Mediterranean prejudice applies) the streets were empty, no mass protests. How so? In the period from 2008 until now there were dozens and hundreds of workers protests and strikes, companies going bankrupt, laying off workers, selling off properties... In the same time student revolts against the privatization of education and mass protests. But the two struggles - the workers and the students didn’t combine in a massive movement although there were and still are attempts and solidarity building among the two movements and other civil initiatives. Maybe the reason for this is the failure of youth to recognize the workers destiny as their own future? The following sketches of stereotypes of youth are merely sketches and harsh stereotyping, but I am making them anyway to try to imagine some reasons for this disconnect between the older and newer generations. The precariousness of the labour market which can only guarantee that if one gets a job it will most likely be a part-time, informal, low-paying job without social security and no career prospect one may build resentment

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“Let’s be realistic and demand the impossible...we’ve got nothing but the eternal crisis to lose”

towards the “full employment” type jobs of the old workers who had social and other rights won through collective bargaining processes. The workers still carry with them the sentiment of belonging to a working class while the youth do not see themselves as belonging to a class but rather feeling they can escape it if they compete with others else they fall in the precariat. The youth is not relating to the “old” job descriptions which are mostly based in industries on their last legs and not the fourth sector jobs most youth aspire to. The liberal assumptions about working hard and being innovative and improving oneself in the process to get ahead are very much alive and strong among the entrepreneur and manager aspiring youth who most probably agree with the laying off of workers to raise productivity and profits as it makes “economical sense”. And then, there are the graduates who are being put to work through state subsidized training and internship schemes which pays less than the minimum wage and guarantees no full or parttime employment after its completion, and the competition to get even this kind of employment is tough. These young people spend eight hours a day working for around 1 euro per hour and that does not leave much time or other resources to rage against the machine, especially when they are working on top of studying, doing the same assignments with the difference of having a three times higher wage as his contract does not include any social pay. These social injustices and blunt differences among the generations do not foster solidarity on the first glance. But instead of playing the blame game and focusing anger on the wrong targets some facts have to be clear: the full employment society is at its end - precarious employment is becoming the new norm, states and economic institutions are doing

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RECLAIM THE FUTURE

everything to deregulate the market and make it more flexible to attract investments which is devastating for workers and social structures of our societies, the chances of becoming poor (if one already isn’t) have never been greater, the definitions of work and its value are changing... the youth can wait and watch this happen or influence the process and demand a redefinition of work which will not destroy society but revive it! Housework labour, care-giving, volunteering, civic engagement... is all work!

We need to... know what we need! In order to redefine work, citizens themselves have to be empowered enough to discover their own needs and the public good which in modern politics has often been served by the elites and not discovered by the people. The solidarity links and support networks of families and neighbourhoods need to be rebuilt if one cannot count on the state guaranteed security networks, although society must never stop demanding them. The interconnectedness of different social causes and struggles must not be overseen and solidarity must be the minimum common denominator of society. The resources available today are vast and more than enough to satisfy everybody’s needs (providing they do not need to join the one percent in their ivory tower), the amount of work and the employment once needed is not needed anymore thus a new understanding of work has to be devised - a basic income guarantee would provide the needed social security and allow people to contribute to society though different kinds of engagement. Being a citizen means being responsible, youth can show that it is worthy of being a citizen and


III. Labour Market

taking on responsibilities - such as detecting the fallacies of todayâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s political and economical systems and having the courage to fight them. Letâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s be realistic and demand the impossible... weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve got nothing but the eternal crisis to lose

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NEETs: Youth Social Exclusion Raül Romeva i Rueda, member of the European Parliament

Delfina Rossi from Spain

RECLAIM THE FUTURE

Youth unemployment policies are today on top of the political agenda. At least thetorically, politicians of all colours mention in their discourses the huge challenge that youth unemployment poses. Even Mr. Barroso, President of the European Commission, has been calling on member states to create jobs for young people in almost all his speeches during 2012. However, little change has been forthcoming. In fact, behind the speeches there is a classical dichotomy: “ Young people argue with their parents, cross their legs, and chat when they should be working”, this was stated by Socrates, 2,500 years ago and indeed, young people are seen as lazy, rebellious and violent and don’t want to work. There are few of us that see youth not as a problem, but rather as a solution, while the problem is the dysfunctional economic and political system. Today youth unemployment is used as an excuse to continue applying neoliberal policies such as increasing flexibility and precarity in the labour market or the reform of the pensions system. They claim hiring and firing with a lower cost and paying lower contributions for pensions will actually contribute to reducing youth unemployment. The truth is that young people in Europe suffer every day from the destruction of the welfare state, the privatization of basic services like water, the reduction of public expenditure and of course, the lack of jobs. Moreover, the establishment is making an example of young people who decide to stand up for their future by criminalising those who decide to protest for jobs or better, funded education. They want cheap workers. They want young people that accept part-time jobs or some internship or young people with high education able to work 24hs for a low salary.

44


“Today youth unemployment is used as an excuse to continue applying neoliberal policies such as increasing flexibility and precarity in the labour market or the reform of the pensions system”

This is what Barroso is asking for. One particular group of young people seriously at risk of social exclusion are the so-called NEETS, Young people not in employment, education or training. At least not in formal education or training, which doesn’t mean that they are lazy, they might be doing voluntary, care work or working in an irregular situation, but they are definitely not able to earn any money and develop their life.

III. Labour Market

people, which cost Spain in terms of subsidies and opportunity 15.7 billion euros. This number might have increases in the last year, despite the fact of having an EU Commission task force in Madrid trying to sort out the problem. However, the country which performed the worst in 2011 was Italy, with 2,2 million NEETs and a cost of 32,6bn euros, follow by France and then UK. (see the table behind).

NEETs are by definition a heterogeneous group of people, across and within each country. NEETs might be young early school leavers or high educated youngsters without jobs. Nevertheless, NEETs figures help us to illustrate how bad the situation is, for each single person and family and for society as a whole. Before the crisis, young people tended to think that education plus effort where key to getting a decent job, nowadays this equation has been broken. This means there is now a lack of motivation to continue studying whilst poverty pushes young people to find any job, no matter how poorly paid, or to emigrate. Clearly, there is a systemic problem and not NEETs are acting as a reserve army of labour, a personal problem of each young person or contributing to the precarity of the labour market each family, nor is it simply just a problem of the for all workers and specially as a threat for youth financial crisis. NEETs are a social phenomenon in Europe, forcing them to accept any job at with that not only generates a huge cost in terms of conditions. GDP, but demotivates people from social, civic and political participation, pushing young people Young people not in employment, education or into social exclusion, making real the adjective of training need a social answer. The first answer a “lost generation”. The numbers are significant must be a change in the paradigm, a change - the Eurofund study shows that the 13.941.264 in ideology towards Social Justice. Secondly, NEETS in the EU cost 153.013.053.902 euros, societies have to include other types of activities, worth the 1,21% of EU’s GDP. such us voluntary work, care work, political and civil work as an asset and not as a GDP cost, Since the beginning of the crisis, Spain had allowing individuals to reach a holistic and the highest increase of NEETs - 34,4% of emancipatory approach to work. In other words: youth were NEETs in 2011, meaning 1.6 million spending public money in grants or subsidies for In a recent study by Eurofund, they point out the cost in terms of GDP that NEETS represent for European countries, where they state that “according to Eurostat, in 2011, 7.5 million young people aged 15–24 and an additional 6.5 million young people aged 25–29 were excluded from the labour market and education in Europe”. These figures show 13% and 20% respectively of each age group are higher by 2-3 percentage points higher than in 2008, as a consequence of the crisis.

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“NEETs are a social phenomenon that not only generates a huge cost in terms of GDP, but demotivates people from social, civic and political participation, pushing young people into social exclusion, making real the adjective of a “lost generation”. young people who might be doing self-organized social activities must not been seen as a cost. Thirdly, we need to reach a level of emancipation from capital where no reserve army of labour is needed. For that, a fair fiscal system that allows redistribution at the European level is crucial. Lastly, policies have to become more plural and detect exactly which are the needs of each group. In order to do this, young people must be integrated into the policy making process. The proposal of a European guarantee for young people (after a maximum of 4 months of unemployment, guaranteeing a job, education

46

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or job training) should be implemented as soon as possible. However, we have to overcome the current cliché of austerity to allow public expenditure to act as a social buffer, avoiding social exclusion and poverty. We cannot let the current young and future generations to be lost; we can neither offer them just cheap jobs. We have to fight every day to create fair conditions in the labour market and in our education system, but also we have to fight against their neo-liberal ideology. We need to be convinced that we, the 99% of the population which include the NEETs, can live better in a better word, because we have the Plan B, where B stands for Social Justice.


III. Labour Market

Country

Total Cost, 2011

% of GDP, 2011

Percent of NEETs, aged 15-29, 2011

Number of NEETs, aged 15-29, 2011

Austria

€ 3.174.088.942

1,06

8,2

124.894

Belgium

€ 5.212.677.869

1,42

13,8

278.610

Bulgaria

€ 1.272.066.372

3,31

24,6

316.901

Cyprus

€ 424.582.494

2,39

14,7

23.799

Czech Republic

€ 1.799.781.276

1,16

12,2

242.213

Germany

€ 15.464.150.265

0,60

9,7

1.350.524

Denmark

€ 1.287.222.442

0,54

7,6

76.201

Estonia

€ 309.028.277

1,93

14,9

41.764

Spain

€ 15.735.159.614

1,47

21,1

1.643.928

Finland

€ 2.020.035.528

1,07

10

98.625

France

€ 22.179.184.354

1,11

14,5

1.634.599

Greece

€ 7.065.609.793

3,28

23,2

419.102

Hungary

€ 2.132.937.655

2,12

17,7

329.915

Ireland

€ 4.327.415.557

2,77

22

193.606

Italy

€ 32.613.386.658

2,06

22,7

2.157.052

Lithuania

€ 328.040.537

1,07

15,2

102.226

Luxembourg

€ 96.837.652

0,23

6,6

6.163

Latvia

€ 535.755.173

2,67

18,7

90.361

Netherlands

€ 3.957.261.493

0,66

5,5

166.254

Poland

€ 7.535.945.953

2,04

15,5

1.253.504

Portugal

€ 2.680.128.907

1,57

14

260.392

Romania

€ 2.102.787.690

1,54

19,1

849.452

Sweden

€ 1.260.246.895

0,33

7,8

142.918

Slovenia

€ 465.709.508

1,31

9,4

34.969

Slovakia

€ 685.900.206

0,99

18,7

226.340

United Kingdom

€ 18.347.112.792

1,05

15,5

1.872.403

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IV. Education

A Europe of Knowledge: Paradoxes and Challenges Jana Bacevic from Serbia The Need for Increasing Youth Mobility in Europe Daniela Di Mauro from Italy

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Europe of knowledge: paradoxes and challenges

RECLAIM THE FUTURE

1. Introduction

Jana Bacevic

Visiting professor at the Central European University in Budapest

“The Europe of knowledge” is a sentence one can hardly avoid hearing today. It includes the goal of building the European higher education area through the Bologna process; the aim of making mobility a reality for many young (and not only young) people through programs of the European Commission such as Erasmus; and numerous scientific cooperation programmes aimed at boosting research and innovation. The European Commission has committed to assuring that up to 20% young people in the European Union will be academically mobile by 20201. The number of universities, research institutes, think tanks and other organizations whose mission is to generate, spread and apply knowledge seems to be growing by the minute. As information technologies continue to develop, knowledge becomes more readily available to a growing number of individuals across the world. In a certain sense, Europe is today arguably more “knowledgeable” than it ever was in the past. And yet, this picture masks deeper tensions below the surface. Repeated students’ protests across Europe show that the transformation of European higher education and research entails, as Guy Neave2 once diplomatically put it, an

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1 European Commission. (2010). Europe 2020: A strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. http://ec.europa.eu/ europe2020/index_en.htm 2 Neave, G. 2002. (2002) Anything goes: Or, how the accommodation of Europe’s universities to European integration integrates an inspiring number of contradictions. Tertiary Education and Management, 8 (3). pp. 181-197. ISSN 1358-3883


“The massification and globalization of higher education have, in many cases, led to the growing construction of knowledge as a commodity – something that can be bought or sold”

“inspiring number of contradictions”. This text will proceed to outline some of these contradictions or, as I prefer to call them, paradoxes, and then point to the main challenges generated by these paradoxes – challenges that will not only have to be answered if the “Europe of knowledge” is ever to become anything but a catchy slogan, but will also continue to pop up in the long process of transforming it into a political reality for all Europeans.

IV. Education

2.2. Commercialization of knowledge

Another paradox of the Europe of knowledge is that the massification and globalization of higher education have, in many cases, led to the growing construction of knowledge as a commodity – something that can be bought or sold. The privatization of education and researched has not only changed the entire ethos related to knowledge production, it also brought very tangible consequences for financing of higher education (with tuition fees becoming at 2. Paradoxes 2.1. Borders of the Europe of the same time higher and more prominent way of paying for education), access to knowledge knowledge? (with scholarly publishers increasingly charging exorbitant prices both for access and Although a “Europe of knowledge” hints at a publishing), and changing working conditions shared space where everyone has the same for those in the academia (with short-term and (or similar) access and right to participate in the precarious modes of employment becoming creation and transmission of knowledge, this is more prominent). On a more paradigmatic level, hardly the case. To begin with, Europe is not it led to the instrumentalization of knowledge without borders; some of them are towards the – its valorization only or primarily in terms outside, but many are also inside. A number of of its contribution to economic growth, and education and research initiatives distinguish the consequent devaluation of other, more between people and institutions based on “traditional” purposes, such as self-awareness, whether they are from the EU – despite the fact development and intellectual pursuit for its own that 20 out of 47 countries that make up the sake, which some critics associate with the European Higher Education Area are not EU Humboldtian model of university. member states. European integration in higher education and research has maybe simplified, but did not remove obstacles to free circulation of 2.3. Democratic “deficit” knowledge: for many students, researchers and scholars who are not citizens of the EU, mobility Regardless of whether education and research entails lengthy visa procedures, stringent criteria actually ever resembled the Humboldtian ideal of for obtaining residence permits, and reporting “disinterested inquiry”, today it is certainly very far requirements that not only resemble surveillance, from being true – for the majority of educational but also can directly interfere with their learning and research institutions, at least. Of course, it makes a lot of sense to argue that education processes. and research should not be separated from the society in the proverbial “ivory tower”. However,

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“Is still possible to use knowledge in order to fight for a better world, but this process entails a number of tough challenges”

RECLAIM THE FUTURE

it is highly disputable whether the current mechanisms of accountability, performance measurement and quality assurance have actually led to the democratization of knowledge.

(or feel) excluded from discussions and debates concerning the role of knowledge in the society and its uses, thus implying that the “Europe of knowledge” is a far less inclusive concept than

On the one hand, the number of “stakeholders” who have the opportunity to influence decisionmaking and policies related to education and research has definitely increased. Besides governments and academic institutions, those who have a say in deciding how higher education will be run now include businesses, international or supranational organizations, think tanks and policy institutes, etc. However, the bureaucratic multiplication of higher education and research governance has not necessarily improved the access that most people have to the processes of knowledge production, nor, for that matter, to its results. To mention two recent examples, the new student movements in Europe based on principles of direct democracy directly point to the limits of “institutional” student representation, while open access initiatives draw attention to the fact that knowledge is hardly accessible to everyone under the same conditions and terms. This means that many citizens still are

it may at first appear. It is possible to see these paradoxes and contradictions as inevitable parts of global transformations, and thus accept their consequences as unavoidable. However, this text wants to argue that it is still possible to use knowledge in order to fight for a better world, but that this process entails a number of tough challenges. The ensuing section will outline some of them.

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3. Challenges 3.1. Equality Probably the biggest challenge is to ensure that knowledge contributes to the equality of opportunities and chances for everyone. This should not translate into political clichés, or remain limited to policies that try to raise the presence or visibility of underrepresented populations in education and research. Recognizing inequalities is a first step, but changing them is a far more


IV. Education

complex endeavor than it may at first appear. Sociologists of education have shown that one of the main purposes of education – and especially higher education – is to distinguishing between those who have it and those who don’t, bestowing the former with higher economic and social status. In other words, education reproduces social inequalities not only because it is unfair at the point of entry, but also because it is supposed to create social stratification. Subverting social inequalities in education, thus, can only work if becomes a part of a greater effort to eliminate or minimize inequalities based on class, status, income or power. Similarly, research that is aimed only at economic competitiveness – not to mention military supremacy – can hardly contribute to making a more equal or peaceful world. As long as knowledge remains a medium of power, it will continue to serve the purposes of maintaining the status quo.

3.2. Continuity and change This brings us to the key challenge in thinking about knowledge. In theory as well as in practice, knowledge always rests somewhere on the slippery ground between reproduction and innovation. On the one hand, one of the primary tasks of education as the main form of knowledge transmission is to integrate people into the society – e.g. teaching them to read, write and count, as well as to “fit” within the broader social structure. In this sense, all education is, essentially, conservative: it is focused on preserving human societies, rather than changing them. On the other hand, knowledge is also there to change the world: both in the conventional sense of the development of science and technology, but also in the more challenging sense of awareness of what it means to be human, and what are the

implications and consequences – including, but not limited to, the consequences of technological development. The latter task, traditionally entrusted to the social sciences and humanities, is to always doubt, challenge, and “disrupt” the dominant or accepted modes of thinking. The balance between these two “faces” of knowledge is very delicate. In times of scarcity or crisis, the uses of knowledge too easily slip into the confines of reproduction – assuring that human societies preserve themselves, usually with the power relationships and inequalities intact, and not infrequently at the expense of others, including our own environment. On the other hand, one-sided emphasis on the uses of knowledge for development can obscure the conditions of sustainability, as insights from environmental research and activism have displayed numerous times. The challenge, thus, is in maintaining both of these aspects, while not allowing only one to assume a dominant role.

4. Conclusions These paradoxes and challenges are just a fraction of the changes that are now facing higher education and research in Europe. Yet, without knowing what they and their consequences are, action will remain lost in the woods of technical jargon and petty “turf wars” between different movements, fractions, disciplines and institutions. The higher education and research policies developed in Europe today to a large extent try to smooth over these conflicts and tensions by coating them in a neutral language that promises equality, efficiency and prosperity. Checking and probing the meaning of these terms is a task for the future.

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The need of increasing youth mobility in Europe

RECLAIM THE FUTURE

University is is the established forum where we can engage with a great diversity of subjects and begin to understand l’“universus tutto intiero” 1 . Studying helps us realize the dynamics of the interaction between society, politics and education.

Daniela Di Mauro from Italy

Today, one of the most important affects of this process is the increasing youth mobility and flexibility in Europe. Many universities offer students the chance to study abroad through different student exchange programs such as Erasmus, summer schools, etc. These opportunities are used by universities to build up partnerships and enhance strong networking and cooperation between them. By taking the example of universities as a reference, it must be considered how the interaction between society, politics and education, in Europe, still faces obstacles. The lack of good practices refers to several complicated procedures, non standardized systems and an information deficit. Although the Bologna process has tried to give academic degree standards, lots of students still face bureaucratic obstacles once back home because their universities don’t recognized ECTS acquired in partner universities. Also, the European average monthly grant for an Erasmus exchange is only €2422 . This must be increased by the EU. This problem of the Erasmus budget underlines the general the general problem of university funding. Many universities face funding problems which negatively affect the quality of teaching and research.. As a result, universities are struggling with diminished resources as governments cut their funding, especially

54

1 http://www.etimo.it/?term=universita 2 Ibidem


“By bringing young people together, through different exchange programmes, Europe will enhance its social integration and allow its future generations to adapt to foreign environments”

following the 2008 financial crisis.. In Europe, will this issue increase the difference between public and private universities? Will this enhance the cooperation between universities? Its not a secret that some private universities have built partnerships with big international companies. Some “ad hoc” Masters have been conceived for this reason. Students are now being taught very specific skills during their university years, instead of gaining them during their job experiences, as was the norm until more or less five years ago. This is one reason why unpaid internships and traineeships are flourishing all over Europe. It has to be underlined that the lack of European job planning for the large number of university graduates is one cause of the significant current youth unemployment.

IV. Education

It is important to raise awareness about the benefits and issues of youth mobility at government policy-making level by increasing visibility of youth associations in the media. Youth policies must also be promoted on the political agenda of all countries. The lack of funds and of information about existing exchange programmes, is a crucial problem for European youth inclusion. This might be resolved by overcoming the existing complicated bureaucracy and by creating concrete projects. For example, the creation of a visa-free youth exchange regime for all young people aged 1830 with no distinction between EU and non EU countries, could be a concrete solution to this. Greater youth mobility will also have a huge positive social impact in Europe. By bringing young people together, through different

55


“Education is a powerful driver of change in society especially in the context of youth empowerment”

exchange programmes, Europe will enhance its social integration and allow its future generations to adapt to foreign environments. This will reinforce a common identity, citizens solidarity and cultural understanding. It would also help young people’s understanding of themselves and others. This new approach could also lead to a new approach in education. Investment in young people starts by investing in education. Formal education is deeply influenced by economy, politics and society and vice-versa. They shape each other, with the purpose to educate students to develop their skills and competences in a more and more globalised society. The risk is that corporate or political interests could negatively influence education if it isn’t adequately publicly funded. There is an insufficient harmonization between youth policy and educational systems. It’s up to us, the young people to promote the issues and benefits of a better European youth mobility because from this, we should achieve a better level of education. What about of official recognition of non formal education at a European level? Education is a powerful driver of change in society especially in the context of youth empowerment. Increasing youth mobility effectively complements the efforts of youth associations and NGOs sharing the same ides of a common European future. European governments should practically enhance EU exchange programmes – such as Erasmus or the European Voluntary Service (EVS) – for young people, in order to contribute to a united Europe. By making these exchange programmes accessible to a large range of young people, institutions would enable their citizens to spend

56

RECLAIM THE FUTURE

time in another country in order to experience what it feels to be a true “European”. This is an important tool for social integration. This outreach and youth mobility will enable future generations to build a Europe free from discrimination based on national boundaries and cultural differences. Youth can bridge the differences by networking and knowing each other better and better. They already do this, through the use of social media tools. Facebook, Twitter, etc. can be drivers of change. Everyone remembers the emblematic Arab Spring Revolution. This is an example reaching out beyond borders, not only the virtual ones but especially the real ones. This can be achieved by enhancing youth mobility beyond geographical and political borders and we, the young people of Europe, we’ll fight for that!


IV. Education

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V. Housing

Ending Youth Homelessness; More accessible Housing Mary Anne Zammit from Malta Socially Just and Environmentally Sustainable Housing Samir Jeraj from the UK Debt, Unemployment and Youth: a Southern European Story LĂ­dia Brun from Spain

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Ending Youth Homelessness; More accessible Housing Mary Anne Zammit From Malta

RECLAIM THE FUTURE

When night falls, the streets become dark and deserted, except for a group of young people who are gathered together. This is their life, their home, day and night, whether it is freezing cold or scorching hot. Yet these youths manage to survive the night. Young women too gather around their partners in order to protect themselves from unwanted visitors and from assaults. Other young women may be engaged in making money out of sex as a means of getting food or shelter. Living rough in the streets has become manageable now, but it has not always been so for these young people. Having shelter and a home is one of the fundamental rights as described in the Universal Declaration of human Rights. Despite this, people are still ending up homeless, especially young people. Young people should never have to live in the streets, but due to many factors and consequences they are being driven out of their home environments. Often, homelessness is precipitated by a shortage of housing, but also because some individuals cannot afford to pay for their housing even if it is available. Further more, cases of homelessness may be attributed to certain characteristics of individuals which may exclude them from accessing housing and increase the risk of poverty. Unfortunately, young people are consistently the most vulnerable and most exposed to these circumstances. During the transition from adolescence to adulthood, young people go through a series of changes and emotional problems. Young people may end up leaving education and their families. If they manage to get a job and settle down, this transition may be manageable, even exciting and enjoyable. However, problems arise when

60


â&#x20AC;&#x153;Young people across the European Union have been especially hit hard by the financial crises and have been exposed to high risks of poverty and exclusion.â&#x20AC;?

young people are faced with financial burdens like paying the bills, and more specifically if they do not find employment. All these situations may expose young people to the risk of homelessness. Young people across the European Union have been especially hit hard by the financial crises and have been exposed to high risks of poverty and exclusion. A brief look at the Statistics depicting the rates of homelessness across the EU indicates that youth homelessness stands at 20 %. In countries like Latvia and Spain, the rates of youth homelessness have escalated to 40 %. There is also a direct link with unemployment and homelessness as one existing factor tends to lead to the other. This is particularly real for young people with few or no opportunities at all, coming from disadvantaged backgrounds. For them, most opportunities in the labour market are completely closed. Social Inclusion has been one of the main topics in the Europe 2020 strategy in order to fight poverty and social exclusion. The European Commission has proposed that for the financial period covering the years 2012 to 2020, at least 20 % of the European Social financing in each member state must be allocated for social inclusion. Housing is one of the initiatives included. On May 2012, a meeting was organized under the Danish Presidency of the Council of the European Union which brought together over 150 people with personal experience of poverty and homelessness. This was the 11th European meeting of people experiencing poverty and the aim was to address the question of homelessness and housing rights in the context

V. Housing

of the crises. Amongst the questions addressed were what were the good and bad practices in relation to addressing homelessness and how policies could be addressed to homelessness and housing.

Why are youths ending up homeless? Generally, young people who cannot pay their rent or with no access to housing are most likely to end up in the streets. Nevertheless, in these circumstances there may be other primary factors which combine to create a situation of homelessness. Such situations can, for example, pertain to family conflicts or breakdown and substance abuse. On account of their addiction, young people may isolate themselves from their families and friends and fail to pay rent as their finances are diverted to sustaining their drug habit. Other notable situations which lead to youth homelessness maybe abuse of various kinds and seriousness which may cause the individual to escape the situation by leaving home and living on the street. Young people may also be repeatedly facing situations of neglect which could be both lack of emotional and financial support from their families. Other common situations are those of sexual and physical abuse. Sexual abuse mostly happens to young women who then resort to living in the streets to escape the abuse. In most cases the perpetrator may be related but often these situations tend to expose young women to further risks and dangers such as involving themselves in prostitution.

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â&#x20AC;&#x153;It is necessary that the sectors of housing, health, employment and education are all integrated in order to facilitate more, holistic policy makingâ&#x20AC;?

Furthermore, there are other situations which constrain young women to leave their homes, for example unwanted pregnancy. Others are forced to leave their homes because of their sexual orientation such as being gay, bisexual, lesbian or transgender. Another category of young people with high risk of ending up homeless are youths who are in prison or in the correctional systems. As a consequence of their criminal record and their chaotic lifestyle, these youths have little or no chance of employment and may lack support from their families and the state Not withstanding the harsh elements of sleeping rough day by day in the streets, young people usually manage to survive. However, this is not without its consequences and homeless young peopleâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s health is often seriously adversely effected. The long standing harsh conditions often compel youths to get involved in illegal activities such as selling drugs, prostitution and shop lifting. Other existing risks promulgated by prolonged life in the streets are those of violence and risks to health. especially for young women. The majority of young women turn to sex, often without protection in exchange for money, shelter or for food. Without doubt, this increases the risks of sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy. The other health risks are those of contracting HIV/Aids, Hep C and Hep B and risks of other medical conditions such as scabies, tuberculosis, dental problems and other sexually transmitted diseases. Substance abuse is further aggravated in homeless youths as they tend to over abuse drugs and alcohol in order to deal with the desperation caused by unstable living places. Mental health problems also often prevalent due to the instability and chaotic lifestyle.

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RECLAIM THE FUTURE

Significantly, most youths may also be suffering from depression, low self esteem and post traumatic stress disorder caused by early traumas in their lives. Owing to the situation of homelessness, youths are facing devastating situations and are being excluded from society, left out from education and from achieving further degrees or qualifications. Youths are facing numerous barriers which are affecting their lives directly and depriving them from being able to cope emotionally and financially and from finding employment.

Addressing Homelessness. As a consequence, young people are suffering and being excluded from society, slowly becoming less visible to mainstream society. Youths are a pillar of society and by depriving them of necessary, basic social security, society also undermines their basic human rights. So in order to ensure young people benefit from equal rights and to combat homelessness, existing policies and strategies must be revised and new ones devised and implemented urgently. The policies and strategies need to focus first on preventing homelessness and secondly on addressing the needs of homeless youths. In order to address the existing problems of youths in the street a comprehensive approach is required including emergency services such as shelters. There is no doubt that these services help to prevent young people from living in the streets for long periods, but we must also act to prevent youths from ending up on the streets in the first place.


V. Housing

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â&#x20AC;&#x153;With the introduction of low income green housing youths would be given the opportunity to afford paying for their homes and to live a normal life in a safe environmentâ&#x20AC;?

It is therefore necessary that the sectors of housing, health, employment and education are all integrated in order to facilitate more, holistic policy making. In order to achieve this, a Multi Agency Framework Approach can be applied. The function of the Multi Agency Framework is to bring together professionals, stakeholders and practitioners from the sectors of Social Policy, Social Work, Housing Departments, Employment and Justice sectors with the aim of comprehensively addressing these problems. The team would meet on a regular basis or according to crises needs and will provide immediate professional intervention, firstly to engage people who are homeless and secondly to prevent youths from ending up homeless in the first place. By bringing all these important key workers together it ensures that interventions are done, also helping to break the bureaucratic systems which often are the source of many problems.

RECLAIM THE FUTURE

people coming out of prison. These initiatives will support young people in dealing with their problems in a safe environment. ????

Creating Accessible Housing

Even so, young people must never be in a position of having no other option than sleeping rough and must be given suitable access to affordable housing. Providing accessible housing for youths is one important measure to keep youths from sleeping on the streets and offer stability. Then there are other measures which can be applied such as renting schemes and funding. Along with providing these measures, there is the need for further care and supervision of young people benefiting from these schemes. Often, young people need help, support and advice in maintaining life in these settings. Professionals and practitioners can contribute by offering follow up, support and advice on a regular basis. In addition to this, the team would aim to facilitate These services may be more beneficial for young care and support for homeless youths based people who have already been homeless or with on their existing needs and problems, increase problems of addiction and crime. Unfortunately, the knowledge on homelessness and conduct the last group are the most at risk of ending up research on the impact of homelessness. The homeless. team would work on identifying those who may be at risk of ending up homeless. When considering strategies for building Nevertheless, young people present different problems and situations and their needs, therefore, must be addressed on an individual basis. This entails expanding specific services and support systems in the community which focus on particular problems and groups. An example of this would be more residential settings within the community focusing on drug addicts, mentally ill and young

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accessible housing, policy makers should also consider the use of green affordable houses. Green building is a concept of holistic development with the aim of providing an integrated approach to housing and health. The positive aspect of green housing is that it is not expensive and that it can deliver positive results in creating direct health benefits for people, particularly the most vulnerable. Therefore, it would be advisable for policy makers and authorities to prioritise


V. Housing

affordable green housing. Green housing initiatives should be motivated by policies to prevent homelessness and to help protect tenants health and the environment. Planning green buildings would likely need to be supported by a legislative and administrative mandate and financial and development incentives. With the introduction of low income green housing youths would be given the opportunity to afford paying for their homes and to live a normal life in a safe environment.

Education and Culture, European Commission. Homelessness Among Young People in the EU. Homeless in Europe, Biulding Green Houses for the Poor, http; www. time.com.timehealth /article Affordable Green Housing. http;//www.nrdc.org/ cities/ building/f.housing.

The use of affordable green housing is a common practice in the United States of America. Green housing has also been in the legislative agenda promoted by the USA President Barrack Obama. Green affordable housing is viewed as a lower income development that will save the planet and protect humanity. Young people are the future of the world and need to be integrated within society. Youths are an asset which no state in the world can afford to lose. Yet, this it is not always the case and quite often young people are being swallowed by dark streets. Implementing these initiatives and policies and offering a comprehensive view will enable young people to live a healthy life, away from the streets with no barriers to education and to the labour market.

References Articles retrieved on line; Homelessness and Housing Rights in the Context of the Crises 11 th European Meeting of People experiencing poverty. http;// womenlobby.org/ spip.php?article. Paulger Gregory, Director for Youth and Sport, DG

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Socially Just and Environmentally sustainable Housing

RECLAIM THE FUTURE

Young people are facing massive challenges with housing. Access to housing for young people in all sectors is collapsing. This means young people are staying at home far longer than before, and substantially restricts their freedom to make choices to shape their lives.

Samir Jeraj from the UK

Part of this problem is due to the rising price of housing in the private sector and a lack of new social housing. Similarly, the impact of the credit crunch means that it is more difficult for young people to own housing. Unemployment and benefits cuts to those in and out of work mean that those with housing are finding it difficult to afford to stay there. With very high levels of youth unemployment and housing benefit being systematically cut, the current generation is falling into a deep housing crisis. Prior to the financial crisis and recession, young people were expected to move into private rented housing and from there into more secure social housing or to buy their own home. Young Greens believe that housing is a right and that access to quality, affordable, and secure housing can best be met through a more balanced mix of housing than present. As Young Greens, we also believe that all housing should be brought up to decent standards. This means that new housing should be built to high environmental standards, which would mean lower fuel costs and better health for tenants. This principle should also be extended into existing private rented housing, by setting higher and rising standards and government investment in improvement.

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â&#x20AC;&#x153;The role of activism in housing is crucial. The Young Greens aim to get involved in campaigns to improve housingâ&#x20AC;?.

The Young Greens strongly oppose the massive subsidies directed towards encouraging home ownership and instead support a more balanced and stable housing sector by building new social council and cooperative housing. We propose to protect private tenants by regulating lettings agents, and the rents they charge. We also propose the creation of a stable rent contract which would control rents. We would protect existing social housing, opposing deregulation and privatisation of social housing. We oppose the criminalisation of squatting â&#x20AC;&#x201C; homeless people should not be criminalised if adequate housing cannot be provided through social security.

V. Housing

We would raise the energy standards of new build homes and extend these standards into private rented housing and fund improvements. We would levy extra taxes on empty homes, and encourage those who are under-occupying housing to transition into more suitable housing. The role of activism in housing is crucial. The Young Greens aim to get involved in campaigns to improve housing. This could be in the form of setting up new campaign groups in local areas or supporting existing struggles. The Young Greens are committed to campaigning for socially just and environmentally sustainable housing inside and outside of parliament

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Debt, Unemployment and Youth: a Southern European Story LĂ­dia Brun from Spain

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RECLAIM THE FUTURE

Household indebtedness has been an issue of growing concern in the political, economic and social spheres over the last decade, and not without reason. After all, it was the sudden increase of default rates of the American subprime mortgage holders that lit the flame of an unregulated globalised financial system, and transmitted through its highly interconnected links causing a now worldwide economic crisis. At the same time, inequality has been reported to increase mostly in developed economies. No matter how widespread an economic crisis might be, it also has unequal impacts on different groups of people, the weaker ones facing the worst consequences. Among these, young people, still in their education and life development stages, are particularly vulnerable to worsening economic conditions. In Southern Europe, in the past decades youth have had access to mainly precarious jobs, and despite being the best educated generation ever, several experts reported that we were as well the first generation to face worse life prospects than our parents. In an environment of worsening means of living, increased household indebtedness has enabled ever increasing consumption, which has been a major source of growth in a number of countries, especially in Southern Europe. Several factors have been highlighted to explain this brutal rise in householdsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; indebtedness, but have mostly disregarded inequality and distributive issues. A new body of literature is however starting to pay attention to this fact, and itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a story that has a lot to do with the increasing private debt of youth in Southern Europe. Following the capitalist dream, youth have attempted to be better educated than their parents; to have better jobs, to earn more money, to be guaranteed a better future. But in the face of decreasing real salaries and


“Young households have been pushed into taking on huge amounts of debt, mortgaging their own future, to be able to live their own generation’s story of success”

V. Housing

the weakening of a redistributive Welfare state, young households have been pushed into taking on huge amounts of debt, mortgaging their own future, to be able to live their own generation’s story of success.

of households holding debt (like in Spain, and Portugal), while for other countries, debt affects much less the younger group than the older ones (like Germany, France, and Greece). For other countries the level of debt of young people is similar to other age groups (like in Italy, or Ireland). However, the mortgage-to-income and the mortgage to total assets ratio is in all cases Debt higher for young people. The same data shows Since the 1980s, household debt has increased that the debt-to-income and the debt service-todramatically, and its growth has exceeded that of income ratios are systematically higher for poorer income in most rich countries, leading to a huge households all over Europe. It is a well-known increase in household debt-to-income ratios. fact that the poor always pay more for their debt. This trend has intensified in the years before the crisis: from 2002 to 2007, the ratio went from 39% Several studies have warned about the to 138% in OECD economies, with mortgages sustainability of increased household borrowing. constituting the bulk of household debt. A 2009 In Spain, newspapers have been reporting that an ECB paper reported similar and even higher the number of credit defaults is augmenting levels considering just mortgage-to-income and reaching historical highs; the percentage ratios for some countries in the EU: on average, of loans with arrears has been over 10% and it was 134,2% in Spain in 2005, and 153,9% in growing in 2012. Regarding debt sustainability, Portugal in 2006. According to this ECB report a relevant variable is the difference between “Housing Finance in the Euro Area”, young interest rates on mortgages and consumption people particularly are facing high debt levels in credits, and income growth. When the former peripheral Europe: 49% of Irish younger than 35 is larger than the latter, the growth rate of debts had a mortgage debt in 2005. For Portuguese exceeds the growth rate of the income that has youth it was 54,1% in 2006, and 46% for Spanish to pay it, requiring that an increasing amount youth in 2005. Although only 11% of Greek youth of disposable income is devoted to servicing had a mortgage in 2007, the mortgage to income the debt. Statistics on interest rates on loans to ratio reached 284%. Somewhat less excessive households from Eurostat show that for the last but equally worrying dynamics can be found in few years these rates have outweighed those of Italy, where 14,1% of youth aged under 35 had per capita GDP growth, and several European a mortgage, but its ratio with respect to income economies exhibit already two-digit numbers was about 167%. However, cross-country for debt service-to-income ratios. For example, variation is significant: in general, the bulk of the young Greeks were paying around 26% of their debt is held by middle-aged households, with income just in terms of debt services; that is, old people having very low levels of debt. For money paid to the bank in terms of interest on young people, in some countries, it is the age a loan, not on repurchasing the principal. For group under 35 that has a bigger percentage Spanish youth it was 25% in 2005, for Italian

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RECLAIM THE FUTURE

youth 20% in 2006, and for Portuguese it was 19% that same year. In other words, in Southern Europe, around one fifth or more of indebted youth’s salaries were directly paid to banks as net benefits on their loans.

Euro-area average. Not only unemployment rates are structurally high, but these countries have suffered as well a dramatic change in working conditions for the past two decades, with a generalized spread of temporary jobs that have affected largely young people (they affect around half of Southern European youth who have a job). The emergence of new types of job Working conditions contracts introduced in several labour reforms in Europe, such as temporary, closed end, part At the same time, the share of total employedt time, apprenticeships, project-related jobs has youth between 15 and 29 plummeted by over 40 has caused even greater negative impacts in percent in each Southern country during 2000Southern countries, where the wage level is lower, 2012, as EUr’observer reports. Spain, Greece, especially for these kind of contracts, and the Portugal and Italy top the list of the Eurozone’s Welfare State safety network is weaker. If these youth unemployment. According to Eurostat data, kind of contracts were introduced to improve young Spaniards are the worst off: 46,4 percent of flexibility and facilitate young people’s entrance them are out of work. Italian youth, the relatively to the job market, they have failed in every way. fortunate ones among their Southern European Enterprises have been using them to substitute neighbours, still face a dismal 29.1 percent secure, high-qualified, well paid job positions unemployment rate - well above the 20.8 percent for precarious contracts with barely any labour

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V. Housing

rights; and instead of giving young people an easy start to get experience in the labour market, it has become a trap that leads to a permanent situation of precariousness where the access to permanent jobs remains unclear. Finally, four young Italian researchers from the Center for Economic Health at the University of York have reported significant evidence of a strong negative correlation between unemployment and precarious jobs, and individual’s well-being. They have produced evidence that temporary contracts, which affect mainly young people in Southern Europe, are a direct cause of emotional distress, eroding physical and mental health and happiness.

is the notable case of Ireland and Spain. In sum, the generalized growth of unemployment levels and the fall in the household sector’s net financial wealth is causing a deterioration of the households’ balance sheets: not only are households more indebted now, but they also find themselves in a more difficult position to face these debts. In most of these countries, households are still in a high level of indebtedness, possibly preventing a faster economic recovery.

So how did we come to this?

A neoclassical explanation What are the reasons for this increased debt These figures are indeed a reason for concern. level in the household sector? Despite its Not only do they reflect European households’ importance, classical macroeconomic models, increased vulnerability and distress, but they with representative agents, non Ponzi scheme are also having important macroeconomic conditions, or implicit consumption transfers are implications. With increased indebtedness, the unable to address the issue of household debt, household sector is more sensitive to changes and analysing it in a general framework. However, in income, in house prices and in interest rates, specific theories have been developed. One thus amplifying the effects of negative shocks of them is the life-cycle hypothesis of savings to the economy. The crisis generalized and pioneered by Franco Modigliani in 1956, by prolonged rise in unemployment has put indebted which households rearrange their income flows households facing negative income shocks in over their time path, financing their consumption serious difficulties with regards to repauing their through debt at the early stages of their life in debts, resulting in a rise on defaulted credits. the prospect of repaying it in latter stages, when Impossibility to repay mortgages has increased income is expected to be higher. Recent increase distressed home selling, which in turn affects the in indebted youth could be partly reflecting housing market and has provoked a decrease in this rationale, with the widespread pre-crisis house prices, making indebted households even perspective of being able to face these debts in poorer as the value of their assets decline. This the future with the prospect of improving working kind of dynamic may have been taking place conditions. But the increase in household debt in several European countries and deepened has been generalized, and not only led by an dramatically the impact of the crisis especially on increase in young people’s level of indebtedness: those that combined a pre-crisis housing bubble the demographic factor can definitely not by itself with high levels of structural unemployment, as it account for the recent levels of household debt.

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“It has become natural that a young person has a badly paid job, if any; we are stigmatized as the lost generation, or its even more offensive Spanish counterpart “ni-ni” (“ni estudio, ni trabajo”, nor studies, neither job)”

RECLAIM THE FUTURE

A closely related theory is the permanent income hypothesis (PIH) developed by Milton Friedman in 1957. According to his theory, the rationale is that consumption only depends on the permanent component of income, and so when facing transitory fluctuations in income, consumers maintain their consumption levels covering the difference with debt. The PIH would justify increasing household indebtedness by an increase in the volatility of the transitory component of income and the desire of consumers to isolate themselves from these growing fluctuations. Applied to reality, the PIH would imply that people who are currently facing a bad economic situation are convinced this is temporary; therefore, they take some debt not to sacrifice part of their life’s standard in the present and postpone its payment in the future, when supposedly better income prospects will accommodate it. But in the first place, can this structural increase in inequality be considered a transitory shock to the distribution of wealth in society? And secondly, it turns out that in the end the permanent income part can explain little about the change in debt levels, and the only way this model has of accounting for bigger household indebtedness is by raising the explanatory power of variables the model doesn’t explain.

the housing market, a lower interest rate offset the increase in house prices keeping the cost of mortgages at affordable levels. In sum, for some time, low interest rates have contained the level of income required to service an increasing amount of household debt. Despite this, debt service burdens have recently reached record highs, as has been previously argued. As a significant part of household debt is represented by mortgages, household debt dynamics are closely linked to the housing market. If part of the recent increased debt capacity has been enabled by the holding of over-priced housing assets, that multiplied the value of the assets held by households, it is obvious to see that this entails a very high risk depending on the very dynamics of house prices, often ruled by the sector’s bubbles. Indeed, as has been explained earlier, a reversal of the trend in prices of the housing market resulted in negative equity (when the value of the mortgage is higher than the value of the house it is financing), reducing consumption capacity and causing domestic demand to drop. But were banks really granting higher mortgages to families with the same low incomes, just because the value of the houses they were buying were thought to be ever increasing? This obviously entails a speculative mechanism.

Another recurrent argument is that households have been non-optimally under-indebted, and the possibility of higher debt levels has been brought about by a series of supply factors easing liquidity constraints. Among these, in the first place, it has been widely pointed out that the low interest rates during the years previous to the crisis reduced significantly the cost of debt services and enabled people to spend at higher rates relative to their incomes. It is true that in

On the other hand, the financial deregulation of the last decades, which has loosened credit conditions, for example lifting the limits on loan-to-value ratios, or the lengthening of credit maturities, especially for mortgages, also contributed to a significant easing of liquidity constraints on households. But to what extent was this shift in the financial markets caused exogenously, or whether it was an endogenous development to accommodate increasing

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IV. Housing

credit demand, remains an unsolved issue. Furthermore, even if it was endogenous, it would seem that banks were easing credit constraints as households were asking for more loans. But whoever has negotiated a bank loan will tell you a different story; pre-crisis bank advertisements widely reflected the competition among banks to capture consumer credit, and bank officers were frequently encouraging consumers to take on more debt. For example, the following Banco Santander advertisement reads “Agile credit: in a TIC TAC you’ll have the money in your bank account”.

Understanding the consequences of rising inequalities and worsening conditions for youth Without disregarding the contribution of previously mentioned factors, a growing body of literature is beginning to produce evidence in favour of another argument, related to increasing inequality in the distribution of wealth. The argument that provides a solid explanation for this fact is the relative income hypothesis, which finds its basis in the works of Veblen and Duesenberry. The idea is that agents care about their relative status in society, and so the satisfaction (or utility) an individual derives from a given consumption level depends on its relative magnitude with respect to the whole rather than its absolute level. There is also well-documented evidence that people seem to care about their well-being relative to the others in society. Some early work on the insights of happiness was developed by Easterlin in 1995, who found that people got happier with income augmenting cross-sectionally (scaling consumption status in society) but not in a time series fashion (the absolute increase in individual income over time does not deliver higher utility if relative status is worsening). According to this theory, it is the socalled desire to “keep up with the Joneses” that explains consumption. People like to think they have a certain place in society, which means in practice that they should enjoy a certain level of commodity: such as owning a house, a car, or going on holidays every year. But in the face of increasing inequality in income distribution, in order to maintain their relative status in society, workers have financed their consumption substituting decreasing salary rents and savings for a higher demand for debt.

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A complementary theory that also develops a utility preference specification that values an agent’s utility with respect to some benchmark is that of habit formation; in this case, individuals value their current consumption in terms of what “they were used to”, which could also account for an increase in household debt to maintain standards of living when facing worsening income profiles. In the light of these theories, the recent increase in household debt levels could be explained in terms of the effort by low and middle-income households to maintain, as long as possible, their relative standards of consumption in the face of persistent changes in income distribution in favour of households with higher incomes. This interpretation, on the one hand, provides an alternative explanation for consumption being inelastic with respect to reductions in household incomes; on the other, it reveals a tendency of consumption spending to rise even when individual incomes stagnate, provided that household aggregate income keeps on rising. This sounds indeed pretty much like what has been going on in Southern European countries, whose economies were growing fast before the crisis, in some of them partly due to the bubble in the housing market. There was a generalized feeling that living standards were improving, that there were plenty of jobs, that we could allow ourselves to live a good life, while what was really going on was that real salaries were stagnating and working conditions deteriorating, and young people were having to rely on excessive levels of debt to finance their life projects. In fact, both theories are closely interrelated. In the end, people “have the habit” of enjoying a certain social position, which is measured

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through their relative consumption levels; it is not only that they are used to that consumption level in particular, but that they also want to keep its relative value in society. Debt has allowed middle class households that were facing worsening working and income conditions to keep the relative status they had. In the case of young people, this motive might have even been more powerful, as social pressure encourages youth not only to keep but improve our parents’ living standards.

An unhappy ending Indeed, it is in the minds of all young people to have a good life, to ensure ourselves a good future. But in Southern European economies young people have been long marginalized economically. High unemployment levels, and poor employment expectations despite being the best educated in history, have left southern European youth in a precarious situation. Low salaries and bubbling house prices have undermined our emancipation projects, but we have been told that we had the best opportunities. It has become natural that a young person has a badly paid job, if any; we are stigmatized as the lost generation, or its even more offensive Spanish counterpart “nini” (“ni estudio, ni trabajo”, nor studies, neither job). When pursuing the better life that we were promised, for a significant amount of people debt has had to substitute degrading income and working sources as a means of achieving a certain living standard, attaching themselves to a debt chain throughout housing and economic bubbles, which have in turn meant applying significant financial resources to service these debts. It has been great business for banks in Southern Europe, extracting huge surpluses from


V. Housing

indebted house-holds. But now we are indebted, because “we have been consuming above our possibilities”.

youth in Italy, Prime Minister Mario Monti went to the extent of arguing that “permanent jobs are boring because you always do the same”. Just because we’re young, our governments exclude Governments, instead of trying to propose us, abandon us. This year’s International Day for political solutions for the structural problems that Decent Employment lemma in Spain was “Youth the youth in Southern Europe suffer, comply with without job, society without future”. Young people this argument that a young person’s problem are important political and economic subjects. is his or her own fault. In the face of zero job Governments should attend to our employment perspectives for youth, the Catalan Employment needs and debt problems, not in the view of a minister suggested that we find ourselves a weak social group that needs assistance, but better life by acquiring experience abroad, and as a group of citizens who have the right to be learning English by “serving coffee in London”. guaranteed a future with dignity Within the drama of tempory employment for Stop Evictions demonstration, Spain

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VI. Democracy and Participation Occupy Wall Street ”We Are What Democracy Looks Like!” Christoforos Pavlakis from Greece The Need for a European Youth Movement Jan Philipp Albrecht, member of the European Parliament Europe’s Youth Must Not be Kept from Deciding Their Own Future! Pettition for a Written Declaration 27/12 on Lowering the Voting Age to 16 Youth Empowerment: The Basic Income Grant Michael Bloss from Germany Towards Economic Democracy Peter Tatchell and Sebastian Power from the UK

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15M. Plaza del Sol, Madrid


Occupy Wall Street “We Are What Democracy Looks Like!” Christoforos Pavlakis from Greece

RECLAIM THE FUTURE

300 years ago, a watchmaker in Geneva, Switzerland, fathered a son who became the first powerful voice against inequality in an urbanizing Europe in which the costs of capitalism and private property were already clear. Jean-Jacques Rousseau proclaimed in his Social Contract that men, though born free, were everywhere in chains. In time, he became an inspiration to the French revolutionaries. Astonishingly, three centuries later, inequality continues to dog capitalism and taint democracy’s legitimacy -- worse now even than back then. Equality and equality’s advocates continue to take a beating in a continent in which the disparities between rich and middle and middle and poor deepen day by day. Take, for example, these harsh realities: • Social mobility, the historical remedy to Europe’s inequality problems (you may be poor, but you can move up the economic ladder), is freezing up; • One in four children live under the poverty line; • Youth unemployment rates are at unacceptable levels in most European countries jeopardizing the beginning of an independent and decent life. What would Rousseau say to all this? Hypocritical advocates of democracy ”throw garlands of flowers over our chains” is what he said. “The first source of evil is inequality,” is what he wrote. “The words liberty and empire are incompatible,” is what he believed. “Great needs spring from great wealth,” is what he insisted on. To the protesters at Occupy Wall Street, who were shaking the political establishement on both sides of the Atlantic last year, he would recall that

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“...they shared something even more precious: a belief that what democracy really is cannot be defined by how it is being practised today”

VI. Democacy and participatiom

democracy’s a “law we give to ourselves” that has replaced votes (one for each of us) with requires participation and direct engagement in dollars (one for the 99 and 99 for the one!) turning the making of a common will. democracy into plutocracy.

OWS : No politics please, we’re trying Anyone who happened to spend a little time at Zuccotti Park, however, quickly learned that to protest! Given how extraordinarily successful it has been both in its own terms and in its capacity to grab the attention of the media, Occupy Wall Street has been conveniently misunderstood by its supporters and detractors alike. Everyone wanted to know OWS’s demands. And the names of its leaders, because there have to be leaders, right? Friends worried the movement was good-willed but amorphous and aimless, while critics dismissed it as another eruption of hippie anarchism -- complaining kids who, standing for nothing, wanted to tear down everything. To be sure, the occupiers themselves were a diverse lot. The encampments around the U.S. (and the world) embrace a panoply of causes, and contained tensions which the protesters themselves acknowledged and even welcomed. OWS had quickly become a vessel into which people poured their own fears and aspirations, but that must be seen a strength, not a weakness. You can’t build a movement on a single narrow demand, however compelling it may be. Which may be why the movement has been slow to produce a definitive document.

those occupying Wall Street shared more than the unifying conviction that money has undone the social compact; they shared something even more precious: a belief that what democracy really is cannot be defined by how it is being practised today. If the occupiers did not have demands and lacked a palpable politics, they exemplified a powerful process that spoke to their principles. To understand what was going on, let us look at what OWS is, not what it does. Start by taking seriously the ubiquitous signs asking “What does democracy look like?” and answering “WE are what democracy looks like!” Let us look at the process, a bold attempt to embody a “horizontal” paradigm of participatory engagement as an alternative to “vertical” big league moneyball democracy.

What the process offered was a compelling rejection of that crass instrumentalism so beloved of high level politicians. The protesters assailed not only Wall Street and capitalism, but also the hypocritical cynicism of politics as usual. The protesters’ principles were in their processes, which stood in radical contrast to how we normally conduct business. To begin with, all That is not to say there is not a unifying theme. decisions had to be submitted to the General It’s called Occupy Wall Street for a reason: it’s Assembly that convened almost every day and about the MONEY, stupid! The money that has was the source of the movements’ legitimacy. put profits before people and left human values The GA’s process was maddeningly open and to be measured by price alone. The money that transparent, with changing constituencies from

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“They are engaging with one another to develop an alternative, a paradigm shift: self-government in place of corrupt central government, active participation in place of the culture of complaint, responsibility in place of cynicism” night to night, and decisions were taken by consensus. Not majority, not two thirds or three quarters, but consensus or a staggering 90% super-majority. Most tellingly, every voice had to be heard, including those of participants who offered a “block” -- that had to be responded to and overcome, if consensus was to prevail.

RECLAIM THE FUTURE

their majority opponents to have to rehearse their protests, word for word, and even mimic their affect? And how fitting that a movement wedded to moral protest should be attuned to protests against its own actions that come from within. OWS may have been naive and exasperating in its refusal to engage in ordinary politics and its disdain for voting. Surely it would have done better to recognize that capitalism is here to stay and that the challenge is to regulate and govern the system democratically rather than to abolish it.

The process required patience and tolerance. And a great deal of talk. And an extraordinary focus on addressing objections. It made it much harder to decide to do anything, but every decision that was passed can claim a legitimacy that finds no counterpart in how we otherwise do business under the sway of special interests and Yet the occupiers knew that greed, narcissism, rivers of cash. avarice, self-interest and egoism -- radical individualism run amok and market ideology Cynics dismissed OWS as a bunch of socialists turned vicious -- have so corrupted the system, and collectivists, but hardly could find a democratic that it appears to them to be beyond saving. process more attuned to the autonomy and rights of individuals. Consider the “peoples’ So, take note all politicians in office, protesters microphone” -- an innovation necessitated by of such kind are not complaining or playing the refusal of the authorities to allow electronic the blame game. They are engaging with one amplification. With crowds of several hundred another to develop an alternative, a paradigm or more listening, individual voices could not shift: self-government in place of corrupt central be heard, so speakers voiced their concerns government, active participation in place of the in snippets that were repeated (echoed) by the culture of complaint, responsibility in place of crowd in an expanding circle, so that the words cynicism. It may not be possible to govern a could be heard on the periphery. nation of a million this way, but it offers a powerful riposte to the tyranny of money over everything The Peoples’ Mic was a clumsy process and under which we now live. made complex and nuanced speech difficult. But it had two considerable democratic virtues: it If we care about democracy, it is then time required relatively simple, straightforward speech to “occupy Rousseau,” take his deep critique that enhanced clarity and communication; and of property and empire and representative it required that in dealing with naysayers and institutions seriously. That is what young “blocks” the majority must mouth and voice the generations should work on - allowing him to actual words of those who disagreed. How better help us expose widening inequality and address to kindle a sympathy for minority voices than for the peril in which it is putting our future.

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VI. Democacy and participatiom

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The need for a European Youth Movement Jan Philipp Albrecht Member of the European Parliament

RECLAIM THE FUTURE

For years young people from all around the world have been protesting against the plundering of our planet and for social and democratic rights. While these movements are evolving from international ad-hoc actions to coordinated cross border activities, the political debates and decisions are still national. Now â&#x20AC;&#x201C; with the crisis of the European economies and nation states â&#x20AC;&#x201C; it becomes more and more clear that a postnational sphere of political debate is not only possible but necessary. But instead of working on a real European democracy, the political leaders decide to create an executive federalism of national governments without democratic scrutiny by parliaments and public. It becomes obvious that this revolutionary moment calls for a revolutionary European youth movement which fights for a stronger European democracy and starts a European debate on social and civil rights. Looking at the global challenges in all policy fields, we need to reinforce our basic values in society. Only with a pan-European debate will we be able to bind governments and enterprises to effective rules. For years big interest groups used the open markets and borders in Europe and beyond to circumvent national laws on social and civil rights, on taxation and market regulation. These developments led to todayâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s reality: household finances have disappeared, public services have been privatized and deregulated, national rules on social and civil rights are not enforceable anymore. It is more than obvious that a reinforcement of democratic decisions can only be reached by a strong movement calling for European standards and stricter democratic rules at the European level.

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â&#x20AC;&#x153;Europe is our future! That means that national governments and national public debates are our pastâ&#x20AC;?.

To reach such a moment we need to realize two things: First, Europe is our future! That means that national governments and national public debates are our past. We should not stick to national debates and calls on national governments. Instead we should start debates on European solutions and calling on political actions on the level of the European Union. But as European legislation always means compromises and openness for new rules, we should not be against a European solution only because national rules seem to be better. In fact, in a globalised world it could be better to have a slightly lower protection for social standards but enforced in the whole EU than to save a few decent national policies but then lose them through lack of enforcement and the reality of the markets. Second, better 50 people discuss for 2 hours than 2 people for 50 hours. In times of democratic crises and lethargic old politicians not acting with a European perspective we need to focus

VI. Democacy and participatiom

on creating a cross border debate on the most important issues than to have large discussions in our used (national) environments. As we want to move quickly for common standards in Europe it seems to be almost a waste of time discussing standards inside one member state before entering a debate of all 27 member states and doing everything again from scratch. As every movement has to choose where to spend its energy I would strongly insist on directly starting a pan-European movement aiming for EU regulations in the field of social and civil rights. Such a movement has to combine the fight for European rights with the creation of a stronger European democracy and therefore a political sphere in Europe. This can only be reached with activists and parties raising European political issues on all political levels. The Green parties in Europe still need a lot of pressure to do this. As young Greens we need to insist on this in all positions and programs.

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Europeâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Youth Must Not Kept from Deciding their Own Future! Petition for a Written Declaration 27/12 on Lowering the Voting Age to 16

RECLAIM THE FUTURE

European Citizenship is one of the priorities on the EU agenda at present. The Maastricht treaty gave the concept of European citizenship a treaty base by explicitly granting civil and political rights such as freedom of movement, the right to vote in European Parliament Elections and the right to diplomatic protection and the right to petition the European Parliament. The Amsterdam and the Lisbon treaty went further in specifying these rights and further responsibilities of the Union in this context. When working towards a European Citizenship, the European Youth Forum identified the following core topics to be relevant for the European Union.

Decrease of Democracy in Europe: The divide between the democratic institutions, elected representatives and political parties on the one hand, and the citizens on the other is growing. The disenchantment with politics, the mistrust towards political parties and the complexity of democratic decision-making processes is creating a democratic deficit. Therefore decision-makers at all levels need to recognise that sustainable democracy depends on participation of all citizens, especially the younger generation, in democratic decisionmaking processes, civil society and civil society organisations.

Right to democratic participation The right to vote is a key element of participation in the democratic process. In most countries

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young people below the age of 18 pay taxes when they get a job and can be convicted. At the same time they are not allowed to vote in elections. Furthermore, studies show the correlation between early and lifelong participation in elections. Therefore Europe needs to foster a culture of democratic participation, securing the sustainable democracy and youth participation in democratic decision-making processes. Europe needs to grant young people the rights that fit their duties.

Active Citizenship - Citizenship education Democratic participation and active citizenship need to be understood as lifelong learning processes. Citizenship education is essential in order to provide, not only young people, but Europeans in general with the skills that enable them to make choices, take decisions and assume responsibility for their own lives within a democratic society. Therefore, citizenship education that imparts civic knowledge, explicit facts, and civic skills, as in implicit know-how, must be a key element as well as a precondition for democratic participation and active citizenship. WRITTEN DECLARATION pursuant to Rule 123 of the Rules of Procedureon lowering the voting age to 16Heinz K. Becker, Jan Albrecht, Karima Delli, Andrew Duff, Eider Gardiazábal RubialLapse date: 13.12.20120027/2012 The European Parliament, – having regard to Articles 20 to 24 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union

(TFEU), which concern European citizenship, – having regard to Article 165 TFEU, which concerns education, vocational training, youth and sport, – having regard to Rule 123 of its Rules of Procedure, A. whereas the right to vote is an irreplaceable form of democratic participation, and whereas young Europeans need to have rights matching their duties; B. whereas increasingly low election turnouts are creating a democratic deficit, and whereas studies show a correlation between early and lifelong electoral participation; C. whereas citizenship education is a key element for active citizenship, and whereas 2013 is the European Year of Citizens; D. whereas the European Year for Active Ageing and Solidarity between Generations (2012) points to the need for a political platform to improve intergenerational dialogue; 1. Calls on the Member States to lower the voting age to 16, to strengthen civic education in schools, to adapt teacher training and to foster cooperation with non-formal education providers; 2. Instructs its President to forward this declaration, together with the names of the signatories, to the Council, the Commission and the parliaments of the Member States.

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Youth Empowerment: The Basic Income Grant Michael Bloss from Germany

RECLAIM THE FUTURE

We want Youth Empowerment! This is the topic of our publication, it is simple and appealing and reflects the feeling of a whole generation of young Europeans who finish schools and universities without having the possibility of finding employment or achieving relative personal fulfilment in their career. If we need empowerment, it implies that we are currently disempowered. What does this mean? First of all, we must not assume that all young people in Europe are in similar situations. This is not the case - social stratification prevails in various countries in Europe, but also the levels of wealth and social security between countries in Europe also differ significantly. Therefore, not everybody is disempowered to the same degree(think of rich kids in private boarding schools for example). However, current youth unemployment rates in every European country are higher, often twice as high, than the general unemployment rate, on average around 22%. It means most youth are affected by the fear of losing or not getting a job. Young people, foreseeing their future and reflecting on their situation in 10, 20 or 30 years to come, see no security at all concerning what life can offer them. But it is not only insecurity which causes problems, it is rather a fear that the lack of jobs will result in social destitution, and that one could find themselves trapped in the dead-end circle of unemployment. The current logic of the labour market is: you do not have a job, so you will not earn experience and without experience, you will not get a job. Such a perspective has a major impact on young peoplesâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; livelihoods. Instead of being the innovators and creators, they become CV-

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“Fear is the driver of our lives and the compliance with jobsuitability is the ultimate scale on which life-determining decisions are being measured.”

maximizers. The CV becomes one of the most important documents to measure personal success, and therefore personal activities go unfulfilled and one’s own way of life disrupted, in order to satisfy the imagined needs of possible future employers. Some would join a social organization and do voluntary work, not because they believe in the necessity of the cause of that activity, but because having a certificate that proofs proves such an engagement is an asset in future job interviews. On a more abstract level, the logic of fear replaces the logic of freedom. Fear is the driver of our lives and the compliance with job-suitability is the ultimate scale on which life-determining decisions are being measured. This very fact constitutes disempowerment, since young people lose the power to control their lives. Every policy of empowerment needs to start from this preposition. The Basic Income Grant (BIG) addresses this precise problem. There are hundreds of different models of the BIG in political discussion. It is discussed and proposed from the very left side as well as from the conservative side and therefore care has to be taken, as the BIG can also be misused through taking freedom and security from the people, forcing them into precarious situations. The basic idea of the BIG is that every person, regardless of his or her social position, gets a certain amount of money from the state (e.g. 800 Euros but the amount is for now not important, as only the idea is discussed in this article. The amount varies according to different models, conservatives and liberals propose much less than 800 Euros). The individual would receive the money without any requirements. It would enable everybody to live a decent (but not

VI. Democacy and participatiom

luxury) life, and it takes away the existential fear of social decline. The concept itself is widely discussed: critics claim that it would be too expensive and not affordable. However economists and technocrats have already presented sensible models indicating that the BIG can be financed without huge changes to the overall taxation structure. Another claim against the BIG is that it would encourage laziness. It is a long discussion, but eventually it is a question of how to understand the human being, as one that is externally determined or a being that has intrinsic goals in life and enjoys rewarding, fulfilling, creative work. Concerning our topic, the BIG, if applied in a certain way, could be an important means in achieving youth emancipation. • The power structure between the future employer and the job seeker is re-balanced; it is not only the young person who has to sell her/himself to the employer. In times of unemployment, when the pool of job-seekers is huge compared to the possible jobs, it creates an incentive structure, whereas the companies do not have to improve their programs for the newcomers. This wrong incentive-structure will end with the BIG, since freshers on the labour-market do not need to take any job, and companies need to become more attractive to employees in order to get the most suitable one’s for their work. • Companies currently expect their new employees to be very young. As a result, students are expected to accomplish their education as soon as possible. Ideally, the

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“The BIG would free young people from the existential fear of not surviving without having a job, it would put the current dynamic upside-down”

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RECLAIM THE FUTURE


VI. Democacy and participatiom

student enters university directly after leaving high school in order to arrive early at the labour market. However, it results in many students studying subjects they are not really interested in and eventually dropping out of the course, to study a different subject or to do something else. With the BIG, prospective students do not have such high pressure to decide immediately after school where to go. If young people have enough time to make a reasonable decision, they would be more focused and motivated students. Additionally, if young people are given more time for their education, they might end up gaining more valuable experiences in their practical field, e.g. through political or social work through a greater amount of free time.

Therefore it would result in a better position for employers using the same amount of money to produce more outcomes from more efficient employees. • And from a Marxian perspective, the positive aspect is that the power structure between labour and capital is shifted. The basic driver for exploitation is the need of the labourer to sell their labour-power, since they mostly don’t possess anything else to bargain with. With the BIG, the need to sell one’s own labourpower is decreased and capital is tamed.

As mentioned before, the concept is widely debated and the details of it reveal much bigger questions than those discussed here. However, one thing is clear. To empower people they • Currently, many students have to work need to get power. With the BIG, young people in addition to their studies, only very will get more power to be able to decide what privileged students have the possibility to they want to do in their lives. They would have get scholarships. With the BIG, everybody the power not to take every job or internship, could focus on his/her studies which would they would have the power to focus on their likely result in greater concentration on studies, and they would have the power to be their studies, producing better students and able to create their own work. The BIG would perhaps even providing more idle work for free young people from the existential fear of not low skilled labour, so that unemployment surviving without having a job, it would put the rates would fall. current dynamic upside-down. The question is no more ‘how do I have to be in order to fit into • From a liberal perspective, the BIG implies society? But rather ‘how do I want to be and how that nobody is forced to work, and people can I change society in order to accommodate will do what they want to do. They will take this aspiration?’. Politics of youth emancipation more risks to fulfill their dreams and maybe should be able to provide this perspective and become entrepreneurs of social activities or therefore the BIG needs to be considered in the of business activities. It would make people debate of how to achieve youth emancipation. work more effectively, since they will like what they do. It would reduce misallocation of workers that do not like their jobs, since they do not have a big obstacle to quit their jobs.

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Towards Economic Democracy Peter Tatchell, edited by

Sebastian Power both from the UK

RECLAIM THE FUTURE

Currently most economic decision-making is concentrated in the hands of a tiny, privileged cabal of major shareholders, directors and managers. Whatever people think of the current economic system, one thing is indisputable: it is characterised by an absence of democracy, participation, transparency and accountability. Employees and their representative bodies the trade unions - are frozen out of economic influence and decision-making. It is time to bring the economy into democratic alignment with the political system. Extending the economic franchise is about democracy and justice. It can help create a greater plurality and diversity of economic power, and also lay the foundations for a more equitable and productive economic partnership between all those who contribute to wealth creation and to the provision of public and private services. We expect political democracy. Why not economic democracy too? Here are some ideas: Public control of the banks that were rescued by governments should be maintained, to ensure that they operate in the public interest and use their future profits for the public good. Retaining public control or remutualising the banks could be a way to fund new social housing, low-interest loans to poorer families and employee-owned cooperative enterprises. Corporate negligence and recklessness should be an explicit criminal offence, to reign in big business sharks and ensure more responsible economic management. Bankers and company bosses should not be able to wreck whole economies and squander with impunity peopleâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s

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â&#x20AC;&#x153;Whatever people think of the current economic system, one thing is indisputable: it is characterised by an absence of democracy, participation, transparency and accountabilityâ&#x20AC;?

jobs, pensions and savings. They ought to be personally liable for damaging corporate decisions, in the same way that doctors and others can be held liable for professional negligence. The threat of legal penalties is likely to result in more prudent corporate governance. There is a strong case for legally limiting corporate bonuses to a percentage of profits payable in shares and deferred for five years. This would deter short-term, high-risk investments. It would make bonuses conditional on a businessâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s long term success. Only people who made successful, sustainable investment decisions would be rewarded. There should be no automatic bonuses. The boards of all public and private enterprises with 50 or more employees should be required to establish equal representation and joint control between management and elected staff representatives. Under an independent chairperson acceptable to both sides, these

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boards would have full access to all corporate information and the final say over all corporate decisions, including investment, technology, wages, prices and so on. Although imperfect, this system of co-determination would produce a major extension in workplace democracy. It would shift the balance of economic power; constraining the remit of capital and expanding the influence of labour; forging a more coequal partnership. It would also be good for the economy because worker directors would offer independent oversight of corporate operations and bring to the boardroom practical, often costsaving, insights from their direct day-to-day experience. Not motivated by the profit motive and private gain, they would be more likely to blow the whistle on reckless risk-taking and on decisions that damage the consumer and the environment. Trade unions ought to have control of their members pension funds. This could be accomplished by legislatively re-assigning

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“Economic revival and social justice require new thinking. We need to make the green and left movements relevant by offering both radical and practical solutions to the current economic crisis”

the administration of pension fund assets to financial experts appointed by, and accountable to, individual trade unions who would act as trustees of the funds on behalf of their members. Or, alternatively, the funds could be jointly administered by the trade unions and their members in a particular region. This would localise and decentralise investment capital. It could then direct these funds into specific enterprises corresponding to the interests of union members and to broader social needs, such as the development of renewable energy and conversion of arms industries to socially useful civilian manufacture.

RECLAIM THE FUTURE

which merely seek to redistribute wealth more fairly within the confines of the existing free market, private ownership, mangers-rule system, these ideas for economic democracy are mechanisms for the structural transformation of capitalism. If implemented, they would alter, fundamentally, the distribution of wealth and power, in favour of organised labour and working people.

Economic revival and social justice require new thinking. We need to make the green and left movements relevant by offering both radical and practical solutions to the current economic crisis – a crisis that has arisen, in large part, Employees should have the legal right to buy- from concentrated and unaccountable economic out their companies and turn them into workers power. This means challenging the system of cooperatives. Buy outs could be funded with economic dictatorship and setting out a new loans from publicly-controlled banks. This would model of economic participation, accountability, weaken the power of big corporations, localise decentralisation and transparency. The interests and socialise economic decision-making and give of employees, consumers and the wider public employees incentives for greater productivity. welfare demand it. The time for economic Evidence shows that people employed in workers democracy is now. cooperatives often have higher output, better job satisfaction and stronger social solidarity. * For more information about Peter Tatchell’s human rights and social justice campaigns: www. The progressive transfer of share ownership into petertatchell.net trade union-administered employee share funds is another way to devolve economic power. This proposal would obligate all private share capital companies to assign to a union-controlled fund a proportion of their annual profits in the form of a new share issue. This would gradually, over many decades, give employees, through their unions, a controlling interest in their firms - transforming them into self-governing workers’ co-operatives. In contrast to traditional reformist economic doctrines of Keynesianism and Welfare Statism,

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II. The situation of young people in Europe

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With the Financial Support of:

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Profile for Stevan Petrovic

FYEG Youth Emancipation Publication - Reclaim the future  

The authors of this publication are from varied backgrounds – whether academic, members of the European Parliament or activists – and they t...

FYEG Youth Emancipation Publication - Reclaim the future  

The authors of this publication are from varied backgrounds – whether academic, members of the European Parliament or activists – and they t...

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