On 20 November the Council agreed its position (general approach) on a Commission proposal on the European Solidarity Corps (ESC). The aim of the proposal is to strengthen cohesion, solidarity and democracy in Europe by offering young people the possibility to volunteer or work in beneficial projects across Europe.
“There are many young people in Europe who want to be part of building the European community and do something tangible to make it stronger,” said Mailis Reps, Estonian Minister of Education and Research. “The European Solidarity Corps will open up new opportunities to turn this wish into a reality.”
The Council has responded swiftly and positively to the idea of the European Solidarity Corps. Following in-depth discussions on the Commission's proposal, the Council has agreed its position and hopes to finalise an agreement with the European Parliament as soon as possible.
The main elements of the Council agreed text are:
-The ESC will be open for people aged 18-30 from the European Union; acceding, candidate and potential candidate countries, EFTA and EEA agreement countries, Switzerland and countries of the European neighbourhood policy.
-A wide range of solidarity activities will be proposed, including volunteering, traineeships, jobs and youth-led solidarity projects.
-It will offer the chance to support public and private entities active in strengthening cohesion, solidarity and democracy in Europe, for example by addressing social exclusion, poverty, health or working on the reception and integration of refugees.
-It will be based on good practices of existing programmes, mainly the European Voluntary Service.
-The overall budget will be based on 100% redeployments of heading 1a which means various existing programmes.
Following the agreement, the Council will finalise the text at technical level as regards the recitals. Negotiations with the European Parliament are expected to start in early 2018.
The idea of creating a European Solidarity Corps was put forward by the President of the Commission in his State of the Union address in 2016.
A first phase of the ESC was launched in December 2016. During the first months, 36,000 young people have registered and 1,500 young people have obtained a placement. This is currently implemented using eight different EU programmes.
To consolidate the ESC and provide for a single comprehensive funding instrument, the Commission submitted in May 2017 a proposal for a regulation setting out the legal framework for the ESC.
For the second phase, to take place under the new legislation, the Commission has proposed a budget of €341.5 million to cover the period 2018-2020. The objective is to see the first 100,000 young Europeans taking part in ESC activities by 2020.