International youth encounters and cross-border volunteer activities are a mainstay of European integration. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, youth exchange came to an abrupt standstill virtually overnight, which has had a profound impact on many young people in Europe, but also on international youth work as a whole. This was therefore a central theme at today’s video conference of EU Youth Ministers in the context of Germany’s Presidency of the Council of the EU. The virtual meeting was chaired by Federal Minister for Youth Franziska Giffey.

Federal Minister Franziska Giffey:

Young people are particularly badly affected in these times. Much of what constitutes growing up is currently prohibited or only permitted to some extent, whether it be learning, meeting peers or specifically travel. Young people want to explore the world, learn languages, as well as gather new experiences and impressions abroad. At the moment, this is only possible to a very limited extent. It is also in this regard that the coronavirus is shaping the young generation’s course of life. That is why we in Europe need to ensure as a group that young people can continue to meet up in the future. In order to do that, contact with international partners must be maintained and digital opportunities for exchange expanded. The main goal for me, however, is to see international youth exchange with personal meetings restart as soon as the situation allows.

In Germany, the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth is supporting non-profit organisations that provide child and youth education and child and youth work through this difficult financial situation with a special emergency programme amounting to 100 million euros. One quarter of this budget has been earmarked specifically for non-profit organisations operating long-term foreign exchange programmes for youths and school children.

Another topic during the video conference was the discussion on youth policy goals attained to date by the German EU Council Presidency. In addition to adopting the European Youth Work Agenda, which aims to strengthen youth work programmes in Europe and thereby support all young people in developing their own personality, a key priority topic was “Youth and Democracy”.

In early October, together with the German Federal Youth Council, the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth had dedicated a digital EU Youth Conference to this subject. The central results of the Conference fed into the Conclusions on fostering democratic awareness and democratic engagement among young people in Europe, which were adopted by the Council of the European Union upon Germany’s initiative.

Federal Minister Franziska Giffey:

We are determined to ensure that during the German EU Council Presidency, perspectives and ideas of young people are better heard at European level. This we have managed to accomplish. In its Conclusions, the Council endorses strengthening effective youth participation at all levels – and the fact it does so is in itself an example of successful youth participation.

The video conference of the EU Youth Ministers replaces the originally planned EU Youth Ministers' Council. Due to coronavirus restrictions, the participants are unable to meet in person in Brussels, so the event is held as a video conference.