In the debate on the future of Europe, policy-makers must be aware that Europe's future will be shaped not only by politicians and institutions, including civil society organisations, but also by millions of citizens – volunteers who spend their time and energy every day acting in solidarity for the common good within and outside civil society organisations.
Volunteering involves millions of citizens in the European Union acting, out of solidarity for others, individually or within organised structures (both informal and formal). This movement requires systematic and thoughtful support, at both EU and Member State level, because its impact on social development is many times greater than the potential cost.
The EESC calls on the European Commission to take action to declare 2025 the European Year of Volunteers, considering that this would be a way of paying tribute to the millions of volunteers who have demonstrated their significant social role, especially in recent months through their work to combat the effects of the pandemic, a way of further promoting the idea of volunteering in the societies of the Member States, an opportunity to exchange experiences and know-how between the authorities of the Member States on legal and political instruments to support the activities of volunteers, and an inspiration for the European Commission to expand and create new programmes addressing volunteers of all ages.
The activity of volunteers has real economic value (amounting in many countries to more than 2% of GDP); in many social spheres volunteers are necessary to ensure the basic needs of citizens, including their safety; volunteers play a crucial role in implementing all the UN Sustainable Development Goals; and volunteers are present in every social and age group.
The EESC therefore thinks it is unreasonable to limit EU-level and EU-funded volunteer support programmes to just young people.
The EESC once again calls on the European Commission to take decisive action to draw up detailed rules allowing for comparable data collection on volunteering activity from all the Member States, stressing that without reliable data it is impossible to pursue an effective policy in any field.