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1st Mar 2024

New EU 'Youth Test' to check policies for 15-29 year olds

  • The EU Youth Test will be a tool to focus on how proposed policies will affect young people's lives now and in the future (Photo: EC - Audiovisual Service)
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The EU's younger generation (15-29 year olds) total over 17 percent of the population — yet they are still under-represented in public policymaking.

To date, existing measures to give young people a say in the policies that affect them have either been limited to areas such as culture or education, or have been designed for young people rather than with or by them.

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"There is the EU youth dialogue, which is a participatory mechanism for young people to co-create suggestions and recommendations with decision-makers on how to improve their lives," Kristof Papp, senior policy officer at the European Youth Forum (EYF), told EUobserver.

There is also the "have your say" portal, but in general these existing tools do not integrate the youth perspective, or organisations and young people with expertise, in the legislative process.

And even when these tools are utilised, they are used "less frequently than the relevance and importance of the proposals would require", according to a report from the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC).

The EYF, which represents over 100 different youth organisations and platforms in Europe, is now proposing a 'EU Youth Test' to the EU Commission to tackle the problem at source.

"The EU Youth Test is an impact analysis tool focusing on how draft policies are impacting the life of young people now and in the future," Papp said.

This tool is based on three pillars: meaningful engagement with youth stakeholders, impact assessments of draft proposals, and mitigation measures in case of negative impacts.

The mechanism has already been introduced in several EU countries such as Austria, France, Germany, and Belgium (Flanders), as well as in non-EU countries such as Canada and New Zealand. Also the EESC, an advisory body to the EU institutions, will be introducing a pilot programme in September.

Although the format of these tests is different, they have all shown positive results in raising awareness among decision-makers of the importance of involving young people in shaping the rules that affect them, in all areas.

"The challenge is to mainstream youth into all policy areas, so that when we talk about infrastructure, sustainable finance or housing, the youth perspective is basically taken into account," Papp explained.

Overall, while mechanisms such as the youth dialogues are really about initiating change and policies, the youth test is about ensuring that the policies proposed by the commission are actually considering the impact on the youngest generations.

Millions of unheard potential voters

With the European elections less than a year away, the participation of young people at the ballot box is not something that EU policymakers want to ignore.

During 2022, the so-called European Year of Youth, the Eurobarometer found that young people's main expectation of decision-makers was that they should listen and act more on them, as well as support their personal and professional development.

"The EU Youth Test is built on the idea that young people feel detached from democratic institutions," said Papp.

Turnout in the 2019 elections was the highest since 1994, and while it increased across all age groups, it was particularly high among the youngest.

Nevertheless, young people's vision of the future is not particularly optimistic after the impact of the coronavirus crisis, the cost of living and climate change.

In another Eurobarometer in 2021, almost seven-in-ten young Europeans felt that their opinions were rarely or never taken into account in important decisions and laws affecting the EU as a whole. Some 55 percent said they knew little or nothing about the EU.

"There is increasing distrust towards all democratic institutions, and we want to ensure that the already existing tools are properly utilised," EYF policy officer concluded.

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