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White Paper on Youth

The main objective of this White Paper is to propose a new framework for cooperation among the various actors in the youth field in order to better involve young people in decisions that concern them.


European Commission white paper of 21 November 2001 – A new impetus for European youth [COM(2001) 681 final – Not published in the Official Journal].


In recent years, Europe has experienced economic and socio-cultural changes that have significantly affected its youth. Hoping to meet the expectations of young people by giving them the means to express their ideas and to make a greater contribution to society, the Commission adopted this White Paper following wide-spread consultations with all relevant stakeholders at both national and European level, including young people themselves.

The White Paper on Youth is also intended as a response to young people's strong disaffection with the traditional forms of participation in public life. Following the example of the White Paper on Governance, it calls on young Europeans to become active citizens.

In order to help European Union (EU) countries and regions to take action for young people in Europe, the White Paper proposes a new framework for cooperation consisting of two components: increasing cooperation between EU countries and taking greater account of the youth factor in sectoral policies.

Increasing cooperation between EU countries

The "open method of coordination" encourages cooperation between EU countries and takes advantage of best practice developed throughout Europe. It involves setting guidelines for the EU, together with timetables for meeting the short, medium and long-term objectives set by EU countries. It also provides for monitoring mechanisms. In this connection, the White Paper proposes appointing a national coordinator as Commission representative for youth-related issues.

The priority areas for this method of work are as follows:

  • introducing new ways of enabling young people to participate in public life. The Commission proposes giving general currency to regional and national youth councils and overhauling the European Youth Forum in order to make it more representative. In 2003 and 2004, the Commission will also launch pilot projects with a view to encouraging participation among young people;
  • improving information on European issues. To this end, the Commission proposes setting up an Internet portal and forum to allow young people to obtain information and express their opinions;
  • encouraging voluntary service. As an educational experience and a way of integrating young people into society, voluntary service plays an important role both at European level, within the European Voluntary Service (the EVS is part of the Youth in Action programme), and at national, regional and local levels, for which EU countries need to make a greater effort to eliminate the remaining obstacles to mobility;
  • increasing knowledge of youth-related issues. This involves, inter alia, networking existing research work and structures at European level.

Incorporating the youth factor into sectoral policies

The White Paper calls for EU and national policies to take greater account of the needs of young people. The policies most concerned are employment and social integration, the fight against racism and xenophobia, education, lifelong learning and mobility. The complex question of young people's autonomy is also included in the future work programme.


On the basis of Article 149 of the Treaty establishing the European Community (now Article 165 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union), various European level actions related to young people have been developed in recent years in the fields of education, employment, vocational training and information technologies. EU countries have also begun to cooperate on issues related to youth exchanges and mobility.

All of these specific actions have received constant support from the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers, either when the programmes were being adopted or in the form of resolutions relating inter alia to the participation of young people or their social inclusion and, later, to young people's sense of initiative. The Committee of the Regions and the Economic and Social Committee have regularly issued positive and encouraging opinions on various aspects of youth. However, greater use needed to be made of this body of information, and this still modest cooperation needed to be consolidated for and with young people themselves.


Communication from the Commission to the Council of 22 October 2004 – Follow-up to the White Paper on a New Impetus for European Youth: evaluation of activities conducted in the framework of European cooperation in the youth field [COM(2004) 694 final – Not published in the Official Journal]. The Commission takes stock of the progress made since the publication of the White Paper, in terms of the mandate expressly conferred upon it by the Council and the undertakings made with regard to all those involved in the process. The Commission's undertakings have all been fulfilled, and the widespread mobilisation of young people, youth organisations, public authorities, ministers and European institutions has been achieved.

To prevent any loss of the new impetus imparted by the White Paper, the Commission feels that the Council should take account of the following aspects:

  • the priorities of the European cooperation framework must be discussed;
  • the balance between the flexibility and effectiveness of the open method of coordination in the youth field must be reassessed;
  • the open method of coordination must lead to effective action at national level in order to guarantee young people's support for and commitment to the process;
  • young people should be consulted regularly, in a structured and effective way, at both national and European levels.

Last updated: 13.04.2011