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Procedure : 2017/2585(RSP)
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PV 06/04/2017 - 7.6
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Thursday, 6 April 2017 - Strasbourg Final edition
European Solidarity Corps

European Parliament resolution of 6 April 2017 on the European Solidarity Corps (2017/2629(RSP))

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union,

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 7 December 2016 entitled ‘A European Solidarity Corps’ (COM(2016)0942),

–  having regard to its resolution of 27 October 2016 on European Voluntary Service and the promotion of volunteering in Europe(1),

–  having regard to its resolution of 19 January 2016 on the role of intercultural dialogue, cultural diversity and education in promoting EU fundamental values(2),

–  having regard to its resolution of 22 April 2008 on the role of volunteering in contributing to economic and social cohesion(3),

–  having regard to its resolution of 17 July 2014 on Youth Employment(4),

–  having regard to its resolution of 16 January 2013 on a Youth Guarantee(5),

–  having regard to the Council Recommendation of 20 December 2012 on the validation of non-formal and informal learning(6),

–  having regard to the Policy Agenda for Volunteering in Europe (PAVE) and the draft European Charter on the Rights and Responsibilities of Volunteers(7),

–  having regard to Regulation (EU) No 1304/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 December 2013 on the European Social Fund and repealing Council Regulation (EC) No 1081/2006(8),

–  having regard to Regulation (EU) No 1288/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 December 2013 establishing ‘Erasmus+’: the Union programme for education, training, youth and sport and repealing Decisions No 1719/2006/EC, No 1720/2006/EC and No 1298/2008/EC(9),

–  having regard to the question to the Commission on Volunteering and European Voluntary Service (O-000107/2016 – B8-1803/2016),

–  having regard to the questions to the Commission on the European Solidarity Corps (O-000020/2017 – B8-0210/2017 and O-000022/2017 – B8‑0211/2017),

–  having regard to the motion for a resolution of the Committee on Culture and Education,

–  having regard to Rules 128(5) and 123(2) of its Rules of Procedure,

A.  whereas the foundations of the European Union are based on fundamental ideas, values and principles, which are agreed and subscribed to by the Member States;

B.  whereas the principle of solidarity of the European Union is one of its fundamental principles and is based on sharing both advantages and burdens;

C.  whereas the solidarity principle has been a driving force behind the development of the European Voluntary Service (EVS), which has yielded extraordinary results during its 20-year history that should not be undone;

D.  whereas the EU institutions and the Member States need to take a strong stand to actively support the civic involvement of citizens and recognise that volunteering contributes to strengthening the sense of solidarity, social responsibility, and shared common citizenship values and experiences;

E.  whereas the creation of the European Solidarity Corps (ESC) must be based on shared EU values, as defined in the Treaties and in the Charter of Fundamental Rights; whereas the goal of the ESC should be to build a sense of community, solidarity and social responsibility in Europe while providing a meaningful and empowering volunteering work, trainee or apprenticeship experience;

F.  whereas quality volunteering can create pathways into employment and open up opportunities for social inclusion;

G.  whereas most volunteering initiatives take place outside of EU programmes and need to be supported by a conducive legal and financial environment;

H.  whereas the EVS is the existing reference framework for volunteering activities in the EU, with a 20-year history of proven effectiveness, know-how and learning achievements; whereas any new EU-wide volunteering programmes should both complement and build on the EVS experience and other successful EU volunteering programmes, such as EU Aid Volunteers;

I.  whereas the ESC could represent an opportunity for young people, who are its primary target group (especially those from marginalised communities and poor socio-economic backgrounds), to make a valuable contribution to society and to increase the visibility of EU engagement and revitalise the wider debate on volunteering in Europe and its benefits for society;

J.  whereas civil society and youth organisations play an important role as providers of quality local, national and cross-border volunteering experiences; whereas continuous support, accompanied by a conducive legal and financial environment, is necessary in this regard;

K.  whereas more than 20 000 people have already registered for the ESC since the launch of the Commission’s online platform in December 2016;

L.  whereas the Commission is urged to come up with a clear and detailed legal framework for the ESC, taking into account the following recommendations by the European Parliament;

European solidarity

1.  Believes that a clear definition of solidarity action at EU level is essential; asks the Commission to define the objectives of the ESC and to make its actions measurable and efficient, taking into account the important positive impact of solidarity action on both the individual participants and the community; underlines that definitions deemed necessary to facilitate this should be developed in close cooperation with the Member States and the relevant stakeholder organisations active in volunteering, civic service and youth action, in line with the core EU values defined in the Treaties and the Charter;

2.  Underlines the need to guarantee equal access to the ESC for all EU citizens; encourages stronger promotion of the possibilities available to people with special needs and people from disadvantaged backgrounds to participate in the initiative;

3.  Strongly believes that while the learning component, including that conducted through non-formal and informal education experience, and the impact on the individual volunteer,young worker, trainee or apprentice, are important elements, the ESC’s main goal should be to achieve a positive impact on the beneficiaries of the projects and actions, and the wider community as a clear expression of solidarity and social responsibility;

4.  Believes, moreover, that placements made available through the ESC initiative would help to develop participants’ life skills, responsibilities, sense of ownership and sharing, and would help to overcome differences of language, culture, religion, belief or economic circumstance, as well as misconceptions and prejudices; believes that the ESC initiative would also help to promote an active citizenship experience and help participants to acquire a critical analysis of the reality and societal problems that they encounter; calls on the Commission to mainstream gender equality when implementing the ESC;

5.  Stresses that civil protection and humanitarian aid cannot be dependent on young people via the European Solidarity Corps; calls, in this regard, on the Commission and the Member States to guarantee continued investments in structured civil protection and humanitarian aid;

The funding of the European Solidarity Corps

6.  Is highly concerned at the Commission’s intention to implement the ESC in its first initial phase by incorporating it into existing programmes and initiatives, and in particular educational and cultural programmes such as Erasmus+ and Europe for Citizens, the Youth Guarantee and the Employment and Social Innovation programme without providing sufficient clarity on the exact financial and human resources to be set aside for the ESC; recalls that Parliament, as co-legislator on EU programmes and a budgetary authority, is opposed to reallocating funds from priority programmes, and often lacks sufficient resources to finance core actions and finance new policy initiatives;

7.  Calls on the Commission to include in its future legislative proposal on the ESC a clear description of the budgetary arrangements that will allow for the effective functioning of the ESC; underlines that the funding of the ESC must not have a negative impact on existing programmes aimed at young people and initiatives such as the Europe for Citizens and Erasmus+ programmes, the Employment and Social Innovation programme, and initiatives such as the Youth Guarantee, and will not distort the functioning of existing successful tools such as the EVS;

8.  Calls on the Commission to provide an effective monitoring and evaluation mechanism for the ESC, in order to ensure its correct implementation, the quality of its opportunities and the sustainability of its results;

Integration of the European Solidarity Corps into a broader strategy on volunteering

9.  Suggests that, to make the ESC a success, the Commission should integrate it into a wider policy strategy aimed at creating a conducive environment for volunteering in Europe, while not overlapping with but rather strengthening successful existing initiatives, such as the EVS;

10.  Underlines that the vast majority of volunteering takes place at local level and meets local needs, and the ESC should therefore initially focus on locally based volunteering, rather than on cross-border opportunities, which require international mobility and may exclude persons from disadvantaged backgrounds;

11.  Emphasises that the ESC should not cause any additional administrative burdens for individuals or participating organisations, and should work in as close a conjunction as possible with existing and well-established volunteering opportunities already provided by civil society organisations;

12.  Urges the Commission to seek to ensure a balance between the high number of registrations for the ESC on the online platform and the number of volunteering positions made available, so as not to engender frustration among young people applying for the ESC;

13.  Calls on the Commission to mainstream volunteering across European programmes and funds, such as Structural Funds, the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund, the LIFE programme and the EU external action programmes and funds; underlines, in this respect, the importance of introducing a single focal point for the coordination of EU volunteering policies and programmes;

14.  Suggests that educational institutions should include training in the field of volunteering, with a focus on solidarity action, in their curricula, in order to support the implementation of the ESC;

A clear distinction between volunteering and employment and quality opportunities for young people under the occupational strand

15.  Calls on the Commission, when implementing the ESC, to make a clear distinction between volunteering activities and job placements in order to maintain the fundamental differences between volunteering and work where the primary focus is on either the needs of the beneficiaries or on the training and development needs of the participants, and to avoid any substitution of potential quality paid employment ; stresses, to this end, that volunteering opportunities should not be eligible for funding that is specifically designed to combat youth unemployment, such as the Youth Employment Initiative;

16.  Underlines that the volunteering strand should be underpinned by a clear understanding of the principles of quality volunteering, such as those outlined in the European Charter on the Rights and Responsibilities of Volunteers; emphasises, furthermore, that any volunteering should always be in support of non-profit solidarity actions to meet identified community needs;

17.  Stresses that the occupational strand should focus on providing quality jobs, traineeships and apprenticeships in the solidarity non-profit and social enterprise of the solidarity sector;

18.  Underlines the importance of providing appropriate administrative and financial support to host organisations and bodies from both strands, and ensuring the necessary knowledge and skills to be able to properly host ESC participants;

19.  Asks that the host organisations should subscribe to a quality charter comprising agreed objectives, principles and standards such as those outlined in the European Quality Charter on Internships and Apprenticeships(10); encourages the host organisations to describe in advance the skills and competences that should be acquired during the experience; calls for the comparability, recognition and validation of the skills and competences acquired during the experience, as required by the Council Recommendation of 20 December 2012 on the validation of non-formal and informal learning, so that they contribute to the sustainable inclusion of young people in the labour market; highlights that clear standards will help to monitor the implementation of the ESC;

20.  Underlines the need to provide young volunteers with adequate financial compensation, and young workers with adequate payment as well as health insurance, training and mentorship; stresses that monitoring of their workload and environment should be taken care of in view of the specific tasks they would have to fulfil for their ESC volunteering or work placement;

21.  Repeats its call on Member States to link youth employment policies with quality and sustainable working contracts in order to tackle precariousness and underemployment;

22.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to ensure full access to the European Solidarity Corps for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds or with specific needs; stresses therefore that a specific budget should be allocated to cover costs for personal assistance or extra support for the young person concerned; considers that the EVS could be seen as good practice in this regard;

Inter-service coordination and stakeholder consultation

23.  Calls on the Commission to properly coordinate and mainstream the ESC initiative throughout all its services and with all other European and national institutions, so as to ensure coherent and consistent implementation; suggests that the Commission’s Directorate-General for Education, Youth, Sport and Culture would be responsible for the coordination and mainstreaming of the ESC;

24.  Reminds the Commission of the need to ensure that the right conditions are provided for proper consultation with key stakeholders, such as youth organisations, European social partners, volunteer-based organisations, trade unions and Member States, prior to drafting the legislative proposal; underlines that these stakeholders should be regularly involved in the implementation and, where appropriate, monitoring of the initiative in order to ensure its correct implementation, the quality of its placements and the sustainability of its results;

o   o

25.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, and the governments and parliaments of the Member States.

(1) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2016)0425.
(2) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2016)0005.
(3) OJ C 259 E, 29.10.2009, p. 9.
(4) OJ C 224, 21.6.2016, p. 19.
(5) OJ C 440, 30.12.2015, p. 67.
(6) OJ C 398, 22.12.2012, p. 1.
(8) OJ L 347, 20.12.2013, p. 470.
(9) OJ L 347, 20.12.2013, p. 50.

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