From June 12 to 16, 2022, The National Youth Council of Serbia realized a study visit to France on the occasion of closer acquaintance with the mechanism of EU dialogue with young people.
EU Youth Dialogue is an ongoing process of consultation between young people and decision-makers in order to jointly define and implement policies relevant to youth at all levels. EU Youth Dialogue ensures the active participation of young people in decision-making processes by giving them space to express their opinions and recommendations freely, thus contributing to the advancement of young people. This process has been continuously implemented in EU countries since 2010. Serbia is the first non-EU country to establish a Permanent Expert Team for EU Youth Dialogue at the initiative of the Serbian National Youth Council within the Youth Council of the Government of the Republic of Serbia – a body in charge of coordinating consultations with young people, in which participate representatives of Ministry of Youth and Sports and the Ministry of European Integration, as well as independent experts.
In order to start the process of conducting a consultation process with young people in Serbia, following the example of the one taking place in EU countries, the Umbrella Organization of Serbian Youth organized a study visit to France with the participation of members of the Permanent Expert Team: Assistant Minister – Head of the Youth Sector Snezana Zugic, Advisors at the Ministry of European Integration Mileva Todorović and Jelena Vasić, Executive Director of the National Association of Practitioners of Youth Work (NAPOR), Jelena Stojanović and KOMS representatives Miljana Pejić, Jovana Božičković, Maša Vračar and Milica Borjanić.
During the study visit, the members of the Permanent Expert Team had the opportunity to meet with various relevant actors involved in the implementation of consultations with young people in France and thus implement the EU dialogue process with young people. Particularly significant is the experience of France, which, as the presidency of the European Union, coordinated the 9th cycle of the EU Youth Dialogue, which takes place under the title “Together for a sustainable and inclusive Europe”.
At the very beginning of the study visit, the members of the Permanent Expert Team were received by the Ambassador of Serbia to France, Ms. Nataša Marić, who presented the various activities and processes in which the Embassy of Serbia participates. The ambassador pointed out the exceptionally good relations between Serbia and France, which can be important in the process of bilateral cooperation and encouraging youth mobility, as was the case during the establishment of the Regional Youth Office (RYCO), which was established by the Berlin Process at France’s initiative. It is in such processes and bodies that young people must play a key role and encourage the improvement of the position and cooperation of young people. The ambassador added that there is a great readiness to improve this type of cooperation, which will be supported by representatives of institutions from both France and Serbia.
A meeting followed with a representative of the Association of Student Organizations and representatives of the Association of Rural Youth. As organizations that participate in the implementation of consultations with young people and are part of the National Working Group for implementation, the representatives of these organizations shared their experience in implementing consultations, benefits and challenges they face that are important for initiating consultations with young people in Serbia.
At the very end of the first day of the study visit, the members of the Permanent Expert Team attended the meeting of the National Working Group of France for the implementation of the EU dialogue with young people. This body, which is a counterpart to the Permanent Expert Team for EU Youth Dialogue in Serbia, has more than 20 organizations in its membership and its work is coordinated by the Umbrella Association of Youth of France. The experience of expanding this body and the issue of involving all interested actors in the work of the National Working Group was important for the members of the Permanent Expert Team in order to improve the work of this body. In addition to the French Umbrella Union and the member organizations of the National Working Group, the meeting was also attended by representatives of French institutions.
After the meeting of the National Working Group, the members of the Permanent Expert Team had the opportunity to meet two EU youth delegates and talk to them about their role and experience so far in holding consultations with young people.
EU Youth Delegates are young people who follow the whole process of consulting decision-makers with young people and the conclusions, opinions and attitudes of young people are presented at the EU Youth Conference.
The second day of the study visit began with a meeting at the French Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports. The permanent expert team was received by representatives of the youth sector. They acquainted the participants of the study visit with the entire process of realization of the EU dialogue with young people as an experience of the French presidency.
The next meeting was held with the representative of the French Umbrella Association and the members of the Permanent Expert Team were informed about the beginning of the implementation of consultations with young people at the national level in France, difficulties in implementation and opportunities to overcome challenges.
On the last day of the study visit, two meetings were held. The first was held in the premises of the Erasmus + National Agency in France, where the directions of the agency’s activities were presented, as well as the opportunities for young people to achieve greater internal and external mobility.
The last meeting was held in the premises of the Franco-German Cooperation Organization (OFAJ), following the example of the establishment of the Regional Office for Youth Cooperation (RYCO) during the Berlin Process. The meeting was realized in a hybrid way, and the meeting was attended by representatives of the French and German offices OFAJ. The importance of youth participation in the peacebuilding process and co-operation within the Western Balkans was discussed.
As a non-member of the Permanent Expert Team, Serbia must receive an invitation from the presidency to participate in EU youth conferences. At the end of June, the Czech Republic will take over the presidency, which is why the Permanent Expert Team, representatives of youth and institutions will work together to ensure Serbia’s presence at this conference.
After gathering important information on the functioning of the youth consultation mechanism, the Permanent Expert Team, coordinated by the KOMS, will continue to improve and expand this body, and begin conducting consultations with young people based on the EU member states.
EU dialogue with young people as a mechanism enables the European institutions to gather important information on topics relevant to the youth population in Europe. The aim of this process is to find a place in the national and EU youth policies through the recommendations and ideas of young people, in order to improve the quality of life of young people across Europe.
The study visit to the actors of youth policy in the Republic of France was realized within the project “EU Questionnaire – Dialogue with Youth”, within the Erasmus + program of the European Union.