Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel issued the following statement today (5 May):
“Every generation must fight for the common European project anew. It is crucial that we win back the hearts of young people across our continent; we must rekindle their belief in the future of Europe.
When the French head to the polls the day after tomorrow, they also will be voting on the future of the European peace project.
Yesterday, the TUI Foundation issued its Young Europe 2017 youth study. Its findings are unsettling and should be a call to action. I’m not so much worried about the very good results in Germany – most young people in our country appear to be happy with their life and with the opportunities that Europe affords them. A large majority supports the common European project. That is very good.
However, the situation elsewhere in Europe is different, and this is especially true in France. Half a generation of economic and social troubles and concerns about the future have left deep scars on the political consciousness of European youths, and the faith in Europe of many has been eroded. What is particularly worrisome is that this has also damaged faith in democracy.
In the public’s opinion, the only area in which the EU creates advantages is economic cooperation. We must not turn a blind eye to this common view, and we must act to correct it. We need a new start, with specific projects that build new trust in Europe and that create true added value and prospects for young people everywhere in Europe.
This applies in particular to using what we have learned at European level about training young people. We can, and we must, do much more in this area. It is truly worth it, because it increases every individual’s opportunities, and it strengthens the European project overall. Exchange programmes such as Erasmus can be geared much more towards all young people, including vocational trainees, not only university students. We should also expand the European Voluntary Service. Europe must not be an elitist project. We do not want an “academic Europe”, but a “Europe for all”.
The TUI Foundation asked young people in several EU countries about their opinions on Europe for its Young Europe 2017 study. According to it, many young Europeans have critical views of the specific political objectives and plans of the EU and do not like the way EU institutions function. More than one third wants the EU to hand power back to national governments. Overall, only half of young Europeans consider democracy to be the best form of government. For more information, please visit: https://www.tui-stiftung.de/unsere-projekte/junges-europa-2017/