«I wish to dedicate this initiative to the one hundred thousand young Europeans aged between 17 and 30 who in the last 20 years have undertaken voluntary service experiences as sentinels of solidarity and strategic assets in keeping Europe together and promoting active citizenship. But my worry goes also to the people affected by a new earthquake last night in Italy, and to the volunteers who are already there on the place». This was stated by MEP Silvia Costa, Chair of the Committee on Culture and Education (CULT) of the European Parliament, after the vote with which the Plenary approved the resolution on the European Voluntary Service and the promotion of volunteering in Europe, based on the proposal by the CULT Committee, and strongly supported by the Group of Socialists and Democrats together with five other political groups.
«We ask the European Commission, five years after the European Year of Volunteering, to finally establish a European legal framework - says Silvia Costa - defining the activities and the status of volunteer in order to facilitate European and international mobility and the recognition of skills, both in the Youth Passport and in the Europass, as a form of informal and non-formal learning. We also ask the Commission to recognize the free contribution of volunteers in European projects as co-financing».
The European Voluntary Service enables young people to take part in volunteering projects also in Third countries in the humanitarian, educational, health, social, cultural, sports fields. It has a total budget of 600 million euros and involves 100 thousand volunteers of all ages who contribute to about 5% of the GDP. Every year 5 thousand young people – of which around 20% are Italian – undertake volunteering experiences. In seven years, from 2014 to 2020, the total number of funds and volunteers of the previous 16 years, from 1998 to 2013, will be exceeded.
«With our resolution - continues MEP Costa - we ask the Commission to adopt the policy agenda for volunteering promoted by the European Volunteer Centre, on the basis of the European Charter of the rights and duties of volunteers, and on that basis to recommend Member States that still lack them to adopt a legal framework and to establish and strengthen national voluntary service programs, providing them with adequate funding. It is, however, necessary to establish a single European contact point in order to inform about the opportunities and coordinate the efforts, so as to achieve a simplification of the procedures for the submission of applications to ensure a quick and easy access to the program.
`In order to ensure an effective dissemination of best practices between Member States and finally achieve the creation of a European civil service flanking existing opportunities, we asked the Commission to conduct a study on national legislations, on voluntary service programs and on civil service and solidarity corps. In this context, we support the proposal by President Juncker to establish European Solidarity Corps, an initiative which will bring added value to the work already accomplished by civil society but only as long as it will be given additional funds and voluntary associations will be involved in its design».
«To extend the volunteer experience to all citizens, of all ages and social conditions, as already happens in Italy and other countries, it is necessary to recognize and financially support no-profit associations and service centers which guarantee volunteers the necessary conditions for their business: organization, mentoring, training and international partnerships. The resolution - concludes Silvia Costa – has been adopted in the year of the twentieth anniversary of the EVS and in a historical moment in which it is necessary to give concrete answers and direct evidences that there is an alternative to the eclipse of solidarity that is darkening Europe».