What is the Structured Dialogue?
The Structured Dialogue takes place all over Europe. Young people and decision makers meet to exchange their views and shape political decisions together. The Structured Dialogue is being implemented since 2010. Every 18-month a new overall topic is being put on the agenda and discussed on a regional, national and European level. For joint discussions on a European level, EU Youth conferences are held every 6 month.
Why a Structured Dialogue?
The Structured Dialogue wants to…
- collect opinions of those affected by political decisions.
- ensure that different opinions are heard and interests are considered.
- make different points of view visible.
- consider the insights gained in order to develop stronger proposals and to take wiser decisions.
The Structured Dialogue aims at…
- considering people as ready and able to shape policies (influence and efficacy).
- connecting everyone who is important for shaping policies (bridging representative and participatory democracy).
- developing public possibilities for participation.
- making “politics” tangible (decreasing hierarchic barriers and actively experiencing civic education).
What is the purpose of a European Union Youth Conference?
The overall aim of EU Youth Conferences is to shape youth policy in the European Union and its member states by bringing together representatives of the biggest institutional participatory process at European level with governmental representatives who have the power to influence youth policy.
During the conferences, the purpose is to learn from each other, enable direct encounters and dialogue on equal terms between decision makers and young people, to strengthen a culture of participation as well as to link political processes on different levels.
When does a European Union Youth Conference take place?
During every 18-month Structured Dialogue cycle, three EU Youth Conferences take place. The first Youth Conference is designed as a space for encounters and determining topics for the national consultation processes, the second one deals with the results of the surveys and aims at defining specific outcomes, the third one, as the final event, concludes with questions regarding the implementation and a further follow-up.
Who organises a European Union Youth Conference?
An EU Youth Conference is organised by the respective country which holds the Presidency of the Council of the European Union. The Youth Ministry or a related official institution which deals with youth agenda is responsible for organising and implementing the Youth Conference in the course of the Structured Dialogue. National Youth Councils are important partners in this process and usually work together with the Ministry in organising the conference. In most cases, also the National Agency for Erasmus+ Youth in Action is involved. A hosting team (in Austria over 25 people) is in charge of running a successful conference.
WHO PARTICIPATES AT A EUROPEAN UNION YOUTH CONFERENCE?
Most of the participants at the conference are youth delegates (3 per country) and policymakers, e.g. ministry representatives (2 per country). Every member state has its own selection procedure and therefore decides who will attend the respective Youth Conference. In many cases, the aim is to reach a good balance between new participants and delegates with prior Youth Conference experience.
Some Member States, especially Belgium and Austria, have a federal structure and are thus usually granted additional places at the conference.
European youth representatives
While more than half of the European Youth Forum’s (YFJ) member organisations are International Non-Governmental Youth Organisations (INGYOs), only a limited number of delegates who represent European youth organisations are invited to the EU Youth Conferences. In addition to the chairperson of the European Steering Committee, who is nominated by the YFJ, 15 representatives from the YFJ and INGYOs are usually attending the conferences.
Additional countries with a Structured Dialogue process
Two countries outside the European Union, North Macedonia as well as Serbia have a Structured Dialogue process implemented. Therefore, both a Ministry representative as well as a youth representative are often invited to the EU Youth Conference.
The same applies for the European Economic Area (EEA), with Switzerland being an exception.
Western Balkans & candidate countries
It is also possible to invite representatives from outside the European Union. The Western Balkan region, for example, has been a priority for all presidency countries in the 6th cycle of the Structured Dialogue and thus youth representatives from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo and Montenegro are invited, as well as one Turkish youth representative.
At many Youth Conferences, (youth) representatives from the Eastern Partnership (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine) are invited.
Representatives from the General Secretariat of the Council of the EU, the European Commission and the European Parliament are invited to take part in the conference.
Eurodesk, European Youth Card Association and ERYICA, as the main European youth information and mobility networks, can contribute to the success of the Structured Dialogue as well as the EU Youth Conferences and are thus invited. The same applies for the EU-CoE Youth Partnership and especially their work in youth research at a European level.
How can I participate?
There is a limited number of spaces at an EU Youth Conference. There is a great variety of selection mechanisms, for example some countries have youth delegates who are trained volunteers supported by the National Youth Council. Get in touch with the National Youth Council in your country to learn more about the procedure used.
There are also other possibilities to join the Structured Dialogue process, e.g. Structured Dialogue projects funded by the Erasmus+ programme or activities organised by the National Working Groups in each country.
What are the outcomes?
The outcomes are different at each stage of the process. After the first conference, an orientation framework on a common understanding of the overall topic of the cycle is typically agreed on. After the second conference, the consultation outcomes will be discussed and joint recommendations are formulated. The third conference sets the course for implementing the cycle results, for example by creating a toolbox containing best practices.
How does the follow-up process look like?
A central element of the follow-up at European level is a document with Council conclusions by the youth ministers which takes up the recommendations formulated through the Structured Dialogue process. At the national level, the National Working Groups share the responsibility of ensuring and monitoring the follow-up and implementation of the joint conclusions/recommendations put forward.