EP President Speech to the European Solidarity Corps Stakeholder Forum
Europe is more than just a free market or a currency. It is, first of all, a space of freedom, exchange of ideas and experiences.
It is also a place for solidarity.
Freedom, the dignity of the human person and solidarity are the essence of our Union.
Solidarity is a commitment to society, which enriches us collectively, and at the same time enriches the individual.
Volunteering and community work are a concrete expression of this solidarity and a demonstration of active citizenship.
Here with us today, I can see a variety of NGOs and other entities dedicated to civic causes: from taking care of people with disabilities to the assistance to regions hit by natural disasters.
You do a lot of work without sufficient attention. You translate solidarity from an idea to a concrete reality in the help you give to others.
You are a truly precious part of our society. I want to thank you for your work and hope to see all of you involved in the European Solidarity Corps.
Europe offers many opportunities for our youth to travel, study or work in another country.
The Erasmus programme has opened horizons for over nine million European youths in the past thirty years. This year we celebrate the Erasmus generation.
With the European Solidarity Corps we are beginning a new story. In the future, we will be celebrating the Solidarity Corps generation.
Our young people have certainly not lost the desire to dream, to make the world a better place, to help others. They have not lost the determination to ensure that no one is left behind.
Today, Europe offers them a new way of giving expression to that determination.
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry wrote: if we want to build a ship, we do not need to tell people to collect wood but to show them the endless immensity of the sea.
In today’s Union, the needs of others is the sea and the European Solidarity Corps is the ship.
The work the Corps does has already attracted the interest of 27 000 young people throughout Europe. This hugely encouraging statistic shows that young people in Europe are keen to get involved.
The possibility of offering short-term paid contracts or traineeships to work in areas hit by natural disasters, and where help is therefore needed, will enhance the initiative.
In the Union today, more than 80 000 young people are looking for jobs in solidarity-related sectors. The European Solidarity Corps will offer some of these young people opportunities.
The European Solidarity Corps is a promise that young people can be part of the process of changing Europe for the better.
Whether they want to build shelters for people after an earthquake or a flood, help a person with a disability to get around, visit elderly people, regenerate the environment or raise money for projects in Africa, our young people can count on our support.
The young people concerned will gain life experience and work experience. They will learn new skills and languages. They will help and support others, including the most vulnerable in society.
For our part, we can contribute to the success of this initiative by ensuring that proper funding is available.
We will work together with the Commission to develop new approaches, seeking synergies wherever possible and ensuring that the disruption to existing projects is kept to a minimum.
I can assure you that, as President of the European Parliament, I will do everything I can to make this project a success.
Solidarity and responsibility are at the heart of the European project.
The European Solidarity Corps shows the European Union at its best.
Thank you for your attention.