Following the release of the legislative proposal by the European Commission at the end of May, negotiations between the three EU institutions are taking place with the objective to launch the European Solidarity Corps in early 2018. EFIL attended several events to follow this process: an informal reception at the Finnish Permanent Representation on 6 September organised by the European Youth Forum with members of the representatives for youth policy at the Council of the EU, representatives of the European Commission and the European Parliament; and a stakeholders’ consultation at the European Commission on 4 October to look at the practical aspects of implementation.
The Commission and the EU Member States are advancing in defining the details of the proposal, while the European Parliament is taking time to discuss the issue.
Here are some operational aspects being defined by the Commission:
1) Structure of volunteering placements: There will be hosting and support organisations. Support organisations will play the role that sending and coordinating organisations have played in the European Voluntary Service (EVS), the re-entry support will be enhanced.
2) Accreditation through the Quality label: the ESC Quality Label is the condition for organisations to apply for ESC funding for volunteer, traineeship and jobs placements. The current EVS accredited organisations will keep being accredited. European networks such as EFIL will be able to apply for the Quality label for all its members since there are statutory links. This means that through EFIL, all EFIL Members can become eligible to apply for ESC funding. Still EFIL members can get an accreditation at national level if they wish, in particular if they are coordinating organisations and want to place volunteers in different hosting organisations at national level. The organisation receiving the quality label might lose it in case one of its affiliated organisations who were granted the label, do not provide quality placements.
3) Training: the training will keep being the one provided within EVS (online linguistic support, residential arrival, mid-term seminars, re-entry) as well as online training which will be provided before departure. There will also be alumni networks.
4) Budget: within EVS, 34.000 long-term volunteer placements were foreseen, while in ESC there will be 40.000.
5) Project application: for organisations that always apply for the same type of volunteer placements year after year, there will be a facilitated procedure where they do not have to write a new project each time.
For what concerns the European Parliament, on 10 October the Joint Public Hearing on European Solidarity Corps (ESC) at the European Parliament was organised by CULT and EMPL committees to gather input from stakeholders, and present the the study EU Solidarity Corps and volunteering which provides an assessment of the legislative proposal for the establishment of the ESC. MEP Helga Trupel from the CULT committee has published her draft report on the initiative, and MEP Brando Benifei from the EMPL committee is also drafting a report. MEP Helga Trupel suggests to change the name of the programme from “Corp” to “Initiative”, points out that the budget dedicated to the ESC is not real “fresh money” because the funds are mostly the ones of the European Voluntary Service, that the programme would be better without the occupational strand which shadows the objective of solidarity and volunteering which is the driving force of this initiative. Finally MEP Trupel advises that the programme should focus more on reaching out to disadvantaged young people, being thus more accessible to those who don’t participate in Erasmus+.
The final vote at the European Parliament (EP) has been postponed to January 22, which means that the programme will not start at the very beginning of 2018, since also the already approved EU budget for 2018 has been approved by the EP and does not include the funds for the ESC. Whether or not there will be a Call for European Voluntary Service projects in early 2018 depends on the timing of the decision making.
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