From my experience working as a youth coordinator, young people in the region are confronted with a lack of jobs, especially after finishing higher education, but not only. For them, the YOUTH Programme is a chance to get new skills, experience by working in a new environment, and the possibility after participation, in for example an EVS project, to have more chances to find a better job. In general, for young people this is the major problem that they have, but also there is the lack of information about the European Union and the programmes that they could participate in.
The situation of youth policy in Greece has not been the best in the last years. Young people do not have access to Internet today. The educational system in Greece is very hard, and only few can pass with exams to university. Lifestyle and media are very important in our lives. We neither have a national youth council nor young politicians, nor a status law for non-governmental youth organisations. But we believe and do our best for a better tomorrow.
The biggest part of the Greek population lives in Athens, the capital city, with more than 50% of the citizens. The biggest problem now with youths is that unemployment is higher than 25%. Having the Olympics this summer is a good target for youngsters in Greece, as they would have the opportunity to share the voluntary experience and other ideas.
I believe they are very energetic and social but they are also xenophobic to a certain extent, especially when concerning people not from Western countries. They are always hospitable but cautious too.
Generally young people in Greece are not very active, I think, but usually are clever enough to succeed in whatever they are trying to do. Because Greece is a tourist country, they are familiar with people from other countries and they do not have a hostile attitude towards them. Just in the decade of the 90′s and after a big wave of immigrants who came to Greece, we faced some racist incidents and some people became sceptical about them. Still a big part of the young people wants to help these immigrants to become true members of the Greek society. Now, in the area I am living, although close to Athens, young people have a village mentality sometimes. They are not very good in English, as the majority of the youngsters in Athens, and they are afraid to approach foreigners. But this is obviously about to change as well, and a big help on this issue will come from the Olympic Games and the whole international climate that the Greek population has to adopt before the summer of 2004.
Young people in my country are faced with a problem of unemployment, which is, here too, more acute for higher education graduates. They are not very interested in social and civic activities and for most of them social involvement is limited to their adherence to a political organisation at university. They tend to stay with their parents after the age of thirty. As time goes by they begin to acquire a sense of European citizenship while at the same time finding themselves living in a country that has recently become a destination for immigrants, a novel situation that often gives rise to xenophobic behaviour.
Here young people are not so well informed about business opportunities and European exchange opportunities. During the last 2 years Greece just started getting in action. In North Greece, were I belong, things have developed quite slowly. Unemployment is a problem of the new generation. The volume of information is confusing them and is making them unable to be correctly oriented. They need orientation, seminars about opportunities, and chances for art promotion and art creation. We give them the opportunity to create and show their talent without financial demands.
Common elements to most young people living in Greece, independently from their economic situation and individual specificities, are their expectations for the future: to find employment, to live in a peaceful and clean environment and to build a family. Furthermore they are characterised by a great enthusiasm in contributing to the building of a better future and by the sense of solidarity towards those young people that are disadvantaged or have fewer opportunities. This often translates in their becoming active and supportive towards existing initiatives by organisations active in environmental, social and cultural fields, so that they can contribute to build a common better future. The grade of sensitivity and awareness of young people relating to issues such as environmental protection, sustainable management of natural resources, human rights, promotion of cultural and social development, etc. is very much dependent on their living conditions as well as on the education they receive from their families and at school, and also from the possibility they get to share experiences with young people living in different conditions. Most of the young people share also interests such as travelling and knowing new countries, situations and cultures; meeting and sharing experiences with other young people coming from other places/countries; knowing languages. Although not all of them have the economic possibilities to travel and make new experiences.
Most of the youngsters nowadays study and learn more than one foreign language. They start to use the idea of Europe and they are very interested to participate in European Programmes like European Voluntary Service and youth exchanges. They like to travel a lot and learn about other countries and cultures. In Greece even though it is a small country we have problems with drugs and quite a lot of people are drug addicts. We try to make them think differently and participate in different activities through youth information centres that started to open few years ago and which still attract the youngsters with very good results. Another problem that youngsters have to face is the problem of unemployment. There are not so many placements for jobs even if somebody has very good studies, and this is one of the reasons that they learn a lot of languages and they proceed to their masters and doctorates. Generally, they like to have fun, to go out, and to listen to music. They are used to going out until the early morning. They can easily change environment and go to live in other countries. There are a lot of Greeks for example that study in England. They use a lot the Internet and almost everybody uses mobile phones. They are used to live alone when they study (in Greece in a different city or abroad) and most of them continue to live alone after their studies. They believe a lot in the family and they are very close to church.
Young people in Greece are like all the others in Europe, they live through the Internet and they communicate all the time by sms’ing. They have to face unemployment and many of them go to Europe or to the USA for their studies and remain there. Just during the last 2-3 years they started taking up politics seriously after a big period of apathy. Now they care about the environment, participate in NGOs, and take part in fora. They want to look ahead and they want to work not for themselves but for their neighbours.
The situation of young people in each country depends upon many parameters such as culture, society, economy, history, religion and the geographical area. For Greece, these parameters are shaped by the fact that it is a Mediterranean country member of the European Union. Thus, young people have many things in common with other youths in European Union countries and have many things in common with other youths in Mediterranean countries. In general, the situation is always changing. It is not something stable. One of the major problems is unemployment followed by drugs, lack of morals and goals, and personal relations.
Young people in Greece are people that have just recently started being informed about the Euro-Med Youth Programme. Imagine a small baby taking its first steps. In our everyday life, we are concerned about everything that concerns any other young person all over the world: studies, future career, music, sports, friendship, peace, etc. Greece is a country that still keeps a lot of its traditions but is also a full EU member. A lot has improved during the past decades. Still there are underprivileged people, especially children and youngsters, like in any place in the world. But what has to be improved concerning youth is their involvement in voluntary work and youth actions, especially in small areas of the Greek provinces. I believe that showing young people that there is something more besides our everyday life and profession, will improve their lives through getting to know people from other countries, cultures, religions, realising that we can all co-exist and collaborate for a better future.
It is now common place for high levels of criminal behaviour and violence amongst young people to be closely linked with their exclusion from policy-making structures as well as with widespread racism and discrimination that still exist in our society. This is exemplified and particularly felt by each one of us every time there is a disturbance that is related to racism and discrimination in our countries. In a way we are all responsible for that and we can all work together so that history does not repeat itself. Most, if not all, reports that have been compiled by experts analysing such disturbances identify, amongst others, three main contributing factors: a lack of strong common civic identity and shared social values, polarisation of communities and disengagement of young people from the decision-making process. Indeed, the lack of a common civic identity based on the promotion and protection of human rights, together with respect and understanding of different cultures, is one of the main factors that lead to polarisation of communities, discrimination and often violence. In this, young people and especially those form minority communities that live on the margins of today’s society, feel excluded and frustrated. They become indifferent and often turn to violence and criminality. Evidence suggests that there is not enough space in today’s social structures for young people to voice their opinions and views. We all talk about the importance of building an inclusive and multicultural society. Yet in this process young people are largely overlooked and excluded. They are the future of this country and yet a large number of them lack proper human rights education and skills that would allow them to develop initiative and active participation in improving their prospects as responsible members of a multicultural society.
The Greek society, and mainly the younger generation, has adopted a number of elements that derive from Western culture, which became a more noticeable phenomenon in the last decade. However, despite the many similarities that can be viewed, there are also a number of differences within Greek society. As in any other Mediterranean country, with a climate that generates a need to get out, youth in Greece seems to participate mainly in external activities instead of internal and domestic ones. It is a usual phenomenon in Greece to go out for coffee and spend a whole day in a cafÃ©, just enjoying the weather and socialising with friends. Surely there are positive aspects of being a young member of Greek society. However there are issues such as unemployment and education that are quite recognisable within the younger generation and are quite problematic. The issue of drug addiction is rising although the numbers appear small. One noticeable characteristic is their belief in Orthodox Christianity although they have shaped it according to their lifestyle. The situation and lifestyle of Greek youth could be described as confusing to themselves, as well as to the way it is portrayed to the older generation. There is quite a large division between youth and the older generations and both sides seem not to understand the situation of the other. In general it seems to us that the young people of Greece, apart from having a few characteristics that can distinguish us from the rest of the youth of the world, face problems that are similar, as well as their solutions.