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Youth policy is primarily the responsibility of EU countries. Under Article  165(2) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, EU action in this field shall be aimed at ‘encouraging the development of youth exchanges and of exchanges of socio-educational instructors, and encouraging the participation of young people in democratic life in Europe’.

EU countries have cooperated in the youth field since 2002. The current framework, the EU Youth Strategy (2010-2018) is organised around 8 fields of action, building on a cross-sectoral approach: education and training, employment and entrepreneurship, health and well-being, voluntary activities, social inclusion, youth and the world, culture and creativity, and participation in the democratic process and in society. Cooperation involves learning from each other's experience, sharing and developing knowledge of common interest, dialogue with young people, monitoring of progress and mobilisation of funding programmes. The Structured Dialogue, for example, allows young people to express their views and discuss these with EU and national policy-makers.

Youth programmes have been in place for 25 years. In 2013, the EU adopted the Erasmus+ programme for education, training, youth and sport for the period 2014-2020. Erasmus+ allows young people to study, train and volunteer abroad, builds the capacity of youth organisations and youth work and supports partnerships, also with organisations outside of the youth field.

The European Youth Portal shares EU and national information and opportunities that are of interest to young people on 8 main themes, in 33 countries, such as a platform where young people can find opportunities to volunteer abroad. It is available in 27 languages.

In response to the high youth unemployment rates, specific support targeting young people is provided under EU employment policy. The EU's Youth Employment Initiative (2013) made €6 billion available to provide additional support to the regions and individuals struggling most with youth employment and inactivity. The EU also recommended EU countries to introduce Youth Guarantee schemes, which seek to ensure that, within 4 months of leaving school or losing a job, under-25s can either find a good-quality job, an apprenticeship, a traineeship or continued education.