Speech by President Séamus Boland, EESC plenary debate with Commissioner Nicolas Schmit

EESC plenary debate on Young people and the labour market in the context of the 2022 European Year of Youth and the 2023 European Year of Skills

Speech by Civil Society Organisations' Group President Séamus Boland

Dear Commissioner, dear colleagues,

As you can see, I am not among the Committee's youngest Members, but I still wanted to speak at this debate for two reasons. Firstly, because the topic of youth is very close to my heart, having worked in youth affairs at the beginning of my career. Secondly, because with the crucial help of our Members representing the youth sector, the Civil Society Organisations' Group took the lead on the topic. The EESC Opinion on a European Youth Test was a Group III initiative. And of course, we were strong supporters of the creation of the coordination group for the European Year of Youth, which has drafted the resolution that we have before us today. And I would like to say publicly that I fully support this resolution, which is both ambitious and practical.

Personally, I believe that we are at a turning point in relation to youth as political actors:

  • 1966 is a date known to most, as the year in which young people demanded to be recognised as actors in their own right;
  • I find the mood of this decade to be quite similar;
  • We may not be living through the violence of sixty years ago, but I do see parallels;
  • There is the same anger and determination by young people to be heard;
  • To have a role in shaping and implementing the decisions that will affect their future;
  • They are leading, at times shaming us oldies into action;
  • The most obvious recent example being their engagement on Climate Change.

Indeed, a quotation from the author George Bernard Shaw comes to mind (and I quote): "Youth, which is forgiven everything, forgives itself nothing. Age, which forgives itself everything, is forgiven nothing".

Dear Commissioner, I would like to draw your attention to two elements which are highlighted in the resolution and Information Report on young people in the labour market:

  • Firstly, the necessity for youth mainstreaming;
  • Which will require the development of a common approach towards structured and meaningful youth engagement by all EU Institutions;
  • In this context, the EESC's has a pivotal role to play in bridging the gap between policy-makers, youth organisations and young people;
  • Secondly, I would like to stress the links between the equal treatment of young people in the labour market and the importance of civic and democratic participation by young people;
  • Ultimately, the labour market is a place of inter-generational solidarity, where individuals feel that they contribute to society at large;
  • Young people must have a voice in the labour market as ultimately, politics and policies are rooted in our societies;
  • Both the Commission and the EESC have an important role in this process.

Thank you for your attention.

Work organisation


Speech by Séamus Boland, EESC debate with Nicolas Schmit