Empowering youth: a shared responsibility for cities and regions
The Congress has decided to devote a large part of its two annual sessions in 2014 (March and October) to the theme “Empowering youth: a shared responsibility for cities and regions”. The aim is to generate exchanges between European local and regional elected representatives on the participation of young people, as actors of local and regional democracy. This gave rise to a number of targeted debates on issues relating to youth and democracy during the 26th Congress session, from 25 to 27 March 2014, in Strasbourg (France): on 25 March, on “Is there a real place for young people in local and regional democracy?”, on 26 March, on “Fostering youth employment through education and training: role and best practices within regions in Europe”, as well as, on “Empowering Roma youth participation: effective policy design at local and regional levels”. Finally, on 27 March, a debate was devoted to “Youth participation- Voting at 16?”.
Is there a real place for young people in local and regional democracy?
Young people are sometimes accused of lacking interest in politics but they are actually prepared to get involved provided that they can express themselves using different means to those of their elders. A debate on 25 March 2014 on the place of young people in local and regional democracy opened a series of several discussions on the role of young people in society taking place throughout the Congress session, and enabled three young people to describe their activities and clarify their aspirations.
Youth education and training: regions invest in twin-track schemes
With five and a half million under-24-year-olds unemployed in the EU alone, many European regions are successfully developing training and employment schemes. On Wednesday 26 March 2014, the Congress’s Chamber of Regions looked at some particularly promising initiatives such as the “Giovani Si” scheme in Italy, training that combines apprenticeships and school-based learning in Austria, the AER’s Eurodyssey programme, and the creation of dedicated youth information points in a number of European cities.
Roma youth inclusion through respect for their rights and access to education
The Congress is calling on local and regional authorities to make it easier for young Roma to access social rights, education and employment, while at the same time combatting discrimination. In a resolution and recommendation adopted on 26 March 2014, the Congress pointed out that young Roma suffer not only the difficulties encountered by Roma, but also the difficulties faced by young people. The adopted texts call on local and regional authorities to publicly commit to working with young Roma and their organisations, and to ensure that youth policies address their specific needs.
Lowering the voting age to 16: a way of increasing young people’s democratic participation?
In 2007, Austria was the first country in Europe to lower the voting age for all elections from 18 to 16. Out of a concern to improve active participation by young people in political life, the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe held a debate on 27 March 2014 to assess the advantages and disadvantages of this measure, which is still an extremely controversial subject among its members.