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Youth policy is primarily the responsibility of European Union (EU) Member States. Under Article 165(2) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), EU action in this field aims 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’. Article 166 TFEU entrusts the EU with the task of facilitating access to vocational training and encouraging the mobility of instructors and trainees, particularly young people.

Member States have cooperated in the youth field since 2002. The current framework, the EU youth strategy (2019-2027), seeks to foster youth participation in democratic life and also supports social and civic engagement with the aim of ensuring that all young people have the necessary resources to take part in society. The strategy focuses on three core areas of action, based around three words — engage, connect, empower — while working on joined-up implementation across sectors. It has 11 goals, which identify cross-sectoral areas that affect young people’s lives and relate to challenges they may face:

  • connecting EU with youth;
  • equality of all genders;
  • inclusive societies;
  • information and constructive dialogue;
  • mental health and well being;
  • moving rural youth forward;
  • quality employment for all;
  • quality learning;
  • space and participation for all;
  • sustainable green Europe;
  • youth organisations and European programmes.

The EU funds a series of programmes offering opportunities to young people, such as Erasmus+ (including DiscoverEU), the European Solidarity Corps and Erasmus+ virtual exchange. These help young people expand their horizons and build bridges across Europe and beyond. Further information is available from the European Youth Portal, which shares EU and national information and opportunities that are of interest to young people.

In 2013, the EU launched the youth guarantee — a scheme to ensure that young people receive a good-quality offer of employment, further education or training within 4 months of becoming unemployed or leaving formal education. The youth guarantee was renewed in 2020 and is underpinned by the EU youth employment initiative, which runs until 2023, when the initiative will become part of the European Social Fund.