Budapest Meeting

Targeted Meeting 2
Budapest – Hungary
22-26 October 2004

Introduction

The scope of Targeted Meetings is to bring together a group of countries facing a similar situation and try to find common solutions. This one aimed at bringing together young people from countries joining the Euro-Med Process recently with their counterparts in Mediterranean countries. The objective was to facilitate their smooth and swift inclusion into Euro-Mediterranean youth cooperation.

The Meeting took place in Budapest, Hungary between the 22nd and 26th of October 2004 and was open to young people from Algeria, Czech Republic, Egypt, Estonia, Hungary, Israel, Jordan, Latvia, Lebanon, Lithuania, Morocco, Palestine, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Syria, Tunisia, and Turkey.

During this Meeting the situation of young people and youth work in the different countries was analysed, participants learnt about each other and about relevant skills, and concrete steps forward have been proposed.

Other such meetings with different groups of countries are being planned.

Welcome Speech

Welcome speech by Mr Attila Mesterházy, State Secretary, Ministry of Children, Youth and Sports

Dear Mr. Buttigieg, Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Participants,

It is a great honour to welcome you on the meeting of the Euro-Mediterranean Youth Platform at the European Youth Centre in Budapest.

Please allow me to say a few words about the international youth co-operation. The positive effects of vitality in this field are obvious in the partner countries and can contribute to the development of collaboration in the future as well.

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Young people are facing new and changing challenges in Europe: it is crucial to have foreign language skills when entering the labour market, young people shall co-operate with partners, guests, refugees from other countries during their life. This usually means co-operation with people who speak another language, who were brought up in a different society, who have other customs and habits, who practice another religion and so on. In addition, life career of youth has changed a lot in the past decades in Europe: the learning process, the time to establish a family have been postponed and young people have also difficulties with the transition period from school to be part of the labour market.

Hungary has taken part for years in the well functioning Community Action Programme YOUTH 2000-2006 which opens the borders for young people: international collaborations, partner finding for youth NGO-s, exchange of experience and best practises as well as the activity of the European Voluntary Service all contribute to the breadth of view of participants. There is an essential need to similar partnerships not only on the European level, but also in co-operation with the Mediterranean countries. Such kind of a collaboration would give the opportunity to open towards new cultures, new experiences and challenges which enhances the development of the national youth policies.

We all know that getting to know each other and leading dialogues between partners are the best medicine against prejudices and social exclusion. This is especially important for young people because their openness and interest help them to form their attitude. Their experience gained during the first ten-twenty years has a great influence throughout their life and on their later decisions. Their knowledge can contribute to an extended horizon and to increase young people’s competitiveness in all areas of their life.

How can Europe become a unit and a region of diversity in the world at the same time? How can the European citizens of the present and the future learn from each other?

Intercultural dialogue, co-operation, tolerance, international experience, non-formal learning: these are the main elements, which serve as answer to the questions above and which help to understand the culture and everyday life of young people in different countries.

Youth policy is a new and dynamic developing field of policy making in Hungary: we have established its institutional background at regional level with the network of information and counselling offices, we have improved the field of youth tourism and do a lot in order to support non formal education of young people. The support to youth policies at local and municipal levels, the system of municipal self governments for children and youth affairs as well as the representation of young people’s interests at ministerial level all contribute to encourage the becoming Hungarian youth to active citizens.

The collaboration within the Euro-Med Programme can enhance the approach of European and Mediterranean areas on the one hand, to the improvement of national youth policies by exchanges of experience on the other hand as well as to the education of a generation free from prejudice.

Partnership development among young people is an ongoing procedure. All the institutions of the European Union give high priority to the neighbourhood policy of the Community and – within the framework of this project – to the improvement of partnership with third countries as well.

Referring to youth issues, it is forseen that there is also an opportunity to develop the Euro-Mediterranean co-operation in the draft of new generation of the YOUTH programme (Youth in Action). This will allow co-operations between European and Mediterranean young people in the future as well.

Co-operation with other international organisations is also a key element. Here we can mention that there is a strong relationship between the Council of Europe and the European Union in the field of youth policy: the Partnership on Euro-Mediterranean Youth Co-operation in the field of Training (2003-2005) is one objective of this co-operation. Some of you might have taken part in such project here at the European Youth Centre in Budapest.

Finally, according to the message of Euro-Mediterranean Youth Platform, let you allow me to wish you to be
– young and experienced
– innovate and revolutionary
– able to getting grow
– good and getting better
– enthusiastic and utopist

Thank you for your attention and I wish you a pleasant stay in Budapest.

Expert Input

Expert input by Dr. Anthony Azzopardi on the situation of young people in the Euro-Mediterranean Region

Welcome! Good Morning, Bon Jour, Salam Ghalikom, Labas, Buon Giorno, Jo reggelt…..

It would be most pretentious of me to claim that I am able to discuss the situation of young people in eighteen different countries and in one and a half hours. I am sure that you are in a much better position than I to relate to this audience what young people in your country are going through and what they are aspiring to.

However, I shall endeavour to present you with some ’food for thought’ so that, during the following workshops you will take the opportunity to share in more detail and in a more factual manner the diverse experiences that result from the context of your country.

Up for discussion we have eight (8) countries from Europe and ten (10) from the Mediterranean region, namely, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia from Europe; and Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine, Syria, Tunisia and Turkey from the Mediterranean region.

During the first session I shall try to present you with a mosaic of comparable and contrasting characteristics pertaining to the two groups of countries. This mosaic should provide us with a scenario which makes the Euro-Med project such an interesting and exciting venture. Understanding and experiencing diverse cultures is a fascinating learning experience because the situation of young people in a country depends on a number of issues including the geographical, political and social situation of the country itself. In the second session I shall discuss in a more specific manner issues that pertain to youth policies and to youth activities.

The information that I shall present to you has been obtained from UN statistics, from internet websites, from Council of Europe (CoE) documents and policy reviews and from my personal experience as a researcher at the University of Malta and with the CoE. I have had the opportunity to interview a number of foreign students at our University – students who come from some of the countries we are reviewing.

Let me start with some contrasting characteristics:

The group of Med. countries is overall much larger in size and population than the group of Euro countries. For example, while Algeria covers an area of 2.4m km sq, the largest in Europe is Poland with an area of 313 km sq. Egypt has a population of 76+ million while Poland has half that population i.e. 38m. Yet the largest population density is found in Lebanon (360/km. sq) and Poland, in Europe, has a population density of 124/km. sq. The smallest population density in the Med. countries is found in Algeria at 13/km. sq., while the smallest in Europe is 31/km.sq. in Estonia.
The main religion in the Med. countries is Sunni Muslim, with pockets of Christianity. The main religion in the Euro group is Roman Catholicism together with a section of non-believers, Eastern Orthodox, Lutheran and others.
The same trend is found in the realm of official languages. With the exception of Turkey, the official language of all the other Med countries is Arabic. However, each one of the Euro countries has its own particular official language.
The fourth and very significant contrast lies in the illiteracy rates in the Euro and Med countries. For young people between the ages of 15 and 24, the average illiteracy rate in the Euro group is 0.2% while that in the Med group is 25%. This is a very rough average which does not take into consideration extreme cases of 8% in the Euro group and of 40% in the Med group.
The fifth contrasting aspect I would like to mention concerns the percentage of unemployed young people among the total unemployed population. The average in Euro countries is 5.7% in the 15-19 age bracket and 18% in the 20-24 bracket. In the Med countries unemployment for the 15-19 age group ranges from 2.9% to 40%, while that for the 20-24 group ranges between 15-39%.
As I pointed out earlier there are then not a few comparable characteristics, that is, characteristics which may convey to us the message that, notwithstanding a diversity of scenarios, co-operation and partnerships between Euro- and Med- young people is a most exciting experience.

To start with a couple of general points, I wish to state that

(a) each and every one of the eighteen countries can boast of a long and very rich cultural heritage – sometimes even closely related to one or more countries from either one of the two groups. Therefore, one can easily understand the strong issue of national pride that is prevalent throughout.

(b) the political history of either group, though differentiated by particular periods of time, is fairly similar in origin, sequence and consequence.

Let me elaborate on this point. All countries under discussion are, at the moment, subject to one form or other of conflict – some more acute than others. However, a stronger similarity lies in the development of each nation towards autonomy and independence. Of course, there is a couple of exceptions. I will come to this later.

But, it will be noted that seven (7) out of the eight (8) Euro countries were occupied by the Russians and independence was achieved in the late eighties or early nineties. Three of these countries are the result of a division of territory as well – the Czech Republic and Slovakia (former Czechoslovakia) and Slovenia from the ex-Yugoslavia.

The majority of Med countries have gained their independence much earlier mainly from the French and the British – some as early as 1922 (Egypt) and others as late as 1962 (Algeria).

So, as you can understand, all the countries under discussion have been through or are still going through a transition phase – with some of them still living the trauma of transition. For example, the Euro group has now to cope with the transition to EU membership having just come out of the ’russification’ period or the political/religious division of their original land.

I am sure you are also aware that all forms of transition carry with them multiplier effects. Political turmoil or uncertainty carries forward social and economical fluctuations, if not drastic changes.

If we were to focus specifically on the preoccupations, perceptions and aspirations of young people in the 18 countries, we shall find that

i. there is a general “fear of the future”. Young people often feel unsafe and uncertain about their future both in education and in the world of employment in particular;

ii. a significant percentage of young people aspire to gain enough cultural (educational) capital in order to be able to emigrate to “pastures new”, to countries that appear to them to be less disturbed by economic failures and social unrest. Coupled with the projected 5% reduction of the youth population in the next 25 years in both groups, emigration- without the desire to return to motherland – is a major blow for the future of any nation.

iii. the revolution brought about by digitalisation and information technology is reflected in the new conception of education and leisure that young people have. Education is no longer firmly tied to reading books and critically analysing the content. Education is now dominated by electronic encyclopaedias and instant access to academic articles besides other amenities. Without realizing, a new form of colonisation is being introduced – what is known as ’electronic colonialism’.

The same may be said about leisure. The rise and rise of the leisure industry in a number of countries has come about as a result of the accelerated development of technology. In terms of leisure facilities, this was translated in many instances into the construction of cinema complexes, venues for electronic games and high sound systems in discotheques. Less expensive alternatives, such as outdoor activities, are being gradually ignored.

iv. A cursory look at the recent and current political developments in nearly all the countries we are considering shows that it is young people who take initiatives that often lead to significant social changes. Various groups of young people have been at the forefront of campaigns in favour of educational reforms, in favour of the environment and of peace, against discriminations, political or financial scandals and others. We may also say that we often see on the visual media young people who engage in direct confrontation in areas where political unrest still prevails.

v. During my visits to some of the countries under review and through my encounters with young people from different nationalities, I have also come up against the fact that they are alienated from their ’normal’ and ’desired’ biography because of political and / or religious conflicts and misunderstandings. This situation appears to be prevalent in most societies where organized groups of young people have to a large extent lost their original mission in order to fight unfair circumstances. The overall result of this state of affairs is a snowballing one: young people are alienated from their studies and / or employment career, they ’serve’ their cause for a period of time, they then realize that they need to make an extra effort to regain lost ground – and, in the process, they go through periods of uncertainty, unemployment and rejection, periods which are, in some cases, prolonged more than desired. It is not uncommon for young people in this situation to fall victims of drug misuse and abuse, sexual precocity and the initiation of delinquent or criminal careers.

I will now turn to more specific issues.

It is generally understood that youth affairs of whatever nature – education, employment, housing, health, leisure time, citizenship status, entrepreneurship potential – are directly effected by the rationale behind the governance of the society they belong to. If a country is governed in a democratic style, freedom of movement and of speech, access to education and the right to participation, for example, are almost taken for granted. However, if a country were governed in an authoritarian manner, such rights would not be forthcoming.

In the 18 countries we are looking at, there appears to be a common strand of democratic governance blended with a pinch or two of authoritarianism. This situation may be partially justified by those in authority in view of the need for convenience and / or control of those social actors who may be prone to hinder social harmony or who are law-breakers.

Whatever the situation, young people need to be made aware of the importance of clear and specific official guidelines for those who govern and for those who are governed. National youth policies are forms of safeguard in this respect.

I shall now refer to the status of national youth policies in the countries we are looking at. I can start by making a clear distinction between the situations that prevail:

we are looking at countries, like Estonia and Lithuania, whose national youth policy has been established and reviewed by a group of international experts from the Council of Europe;
we have countries, like Hungary and Slovakia, whose national youth policy has been presented to the Council of Europe for an international review;
we have countries, like Turkey, which do not have a specific youth policy yet, or whose youth policy is incorporated with the general government policy and, therefore, is not specific with regard to youth affairs; and
we have countries, like Palestine and Syria, which cannot provide specific youth policy guidelines at the moment due, perhaps, to other priorities.
Of course, we are not in a position to judge the reasons behind each country’s approach to youth policy. There are various reasons for each situation. But I am sure you will agree that for young people and for youth organisations to function efficiently and effectively, both locally and internationally, they need the support of the State and of the relevant laws. Only then will their rights, entitlements and duties be clearly and unequivocally assured.

Perhaps one strong platform from which young people may make their voice heard is the Euro-Med platform. In your meetings and encounters, I would insist that you should push for the establishment of specific youth policies. It would be ideal, for example, for a Lithuanian young person to meet an Algerian youth knowing that they have their respective government’s approval and support for joint projects or for exchange programmes. According to the information available to me at this time – and here I ask you to listen carefully for any new information you will be able to add –

Algeria and Egypt have a Supreme Council of Youth which functions in co-operation with the Ministry of Youth and Sport in the case of Algeria and with the Higher Council for Youth in the case of Egypt. In Algeria there is a National Youth Forum while Egypt claims to have an Arab Youth Union – as the two main youth NGOs for these two countries;
The Ministry of Youth and Culture in Israel and Jordan is responsible for the government’s policy on youth. The Youth Policy in Israel is highly structured within the education system in particular, while in Jordan there is a vocational training corporation that looks after young people’s employment needs and aspirations. Jordan has been very active with Euro-Med projects;
A Director General of Youth and Sport co-ordinates youth affairs in Lebanon and Morocco. Morocco is now in the process of developing a cross-sectoral youth policy;
Tunisia has a Ministry of Youth and Children and Turkey a Youth Services Department. According to my information, a specific youth policy has not as yet been formulated;
Unfortunately, I am not in a position to state what is the situation in Syria and Palestine. A number of e-mails I sent have remained unanswered.
With regard to the Euro-countries, the following situations prevail:

In the Czech Republic, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport is responsible for youth affairs. A Law on Youth is still being prepared while a Governmental Concept on Youth Policy (2002-7) is the Czech version of a National Youth Policy.
The youth policy in Estonia has been established and reviewed by the Council of Europe in 2000. The policy provides guidelines for the Youth Department in the Ministry of Education;
A Youth Affairs Committee within a Parliamentary Committee and the Ministry of Youth, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities in Hungary co-ordinate action plans concerning young people. There is also the Hungarian Bureau for International Youth Work. The National Youth Policy is due for review by the Council of Europe next year;
Latvia has a Youth Affairs Department within the Ministry of Education, Child and Family Affairs;
Lithuania boasts of a co-management system among the State Council of Youth Affairs, a Parliamentary Committee and a national youth organisation, LiJOT. The National Youth Policy was reviewed in 2002/3 by the Council of Europe;
The Under Secretary of State for Youth Affairs and the Ministry of Education in Poland co-ordinate youth programmes. A National Youth Council is due to be established in 2005.
Slovakia’s national youth policy is up for review during this year and 2005. A National Youth Programme has already been published; and
A Youth Department and a Parliamentary Commission are responsible for youth affairs in Slovenia. An Act on Voluntary Work is in force.
Within this mixed bag of situations, one finds a number of youth NGOs which provide the energy behind a variety of national and international activities, like participation in the European YOUTH programme, among others. Foremost among NGOs one finds national youth councils (NYCs) which have a much higher profile in the European than in the Mediterranean countries.

NYCs, when supported by the appropriate policy and legislation, can become the main advocates for young people’s collective representation. I would suggest that you give priority to this issue of NYCs in your discussions.

I also invite you to share details of activities you know of during the workshop sessions. For example, it would be interesting to find out what the situation about youth information centres in each country is. Ireland was the pioneer in this project and now Information Centres are flourishing throughout Europe. These centres serve to provide young people with information related to employment opportunities, exchange programmes and other relevant activities. They also provide counselling and library services; they organise seminars and they facilitate co-operation among a variety of organisations.

There is a very comprehensive list of partners on the Euro-Med website.

In the first session I outlined a number of contrasting and comparable characteristics pertaining to the 18 countries we are discussing. In this session I attempted to give you more specific information about each country’s position with regard to youth policy.

I would like to end on a lighter note.

In preparation for this presentation, I made a brief study of each country’s national flag. As you know the national flag symbolises the country, giving a snapshot of the country’s history and culture. The colours and symbols appearing on a national flag have a story to tell. I found that:

In the 8 Euro countries
White appears in 7 of the flags, the only exception being Lithuania. Lithuania goes for yellow.
Red appears in 6 of the flags, the exceptions being Estonia and Latvia. These two countries go for a very dark shade of red, black and brown respectively. [you will note that the Baltic States are the exceptions].
In the 10 Med countries
White appears in all the national flags
Red appears in 9 of the flags – the exception being Israel which depicts light blue instead.
Let me tell you that “white” represents happiness, light and faithfulness; and that “red” represents blood shed by people throughout the country’s history.

Does all this tell us something? Are all these nations looking for happiness? Haven’t they all shed blood for the love of their country? How does all this reflect on the situation of young people?

I leave it to you to decide …

REFERENCES:

http://esa.un.org/soc.dev/unyin/

http://www.euromedp.org

http://encyclopaedia.thefreedictionary.com

http://youthforhab.org.tr

European Commission White Paper (2002), A New Impetus for European Youth, Belgium, European communities.

European Steering Committee for Youth (CDEJ) (2001), Youth Policy in Estonia, Strasbourg, Council of Europe Publishing.

European Steering Committee for Youth (CDEJ) (2003), Youth Policy in Lithuania, Strasbourg, Council of Europe Publishing.

Ministry of Education of the Slovak Republic (2003), Youth in Slovakia, Bratislava, Vydavatelstvo Don Bosco.

Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports (2003), Young People in the Czech Republic, Czech Republic, Department of Youth Affairs.

Williamson, H. (2002), Supporting Young People in Europe: principles, policy and practice, Strasbourg, Council of Europe Publishing.