Barack Obama said in his famous "yes we can" speech that there has never been anything false about hope. However there is something extremely false about the recent establishment of Young European Alliance for Hope (YEAH), an organisation that offers only more despair to young people. This Alliance brings together far-right extreme nationalist youth political parties, including the youth groups of France's National Front (FN), Austria's Freedom Party (FPOe), Belgium's Vlaams Belang and the Sweden Democrats. For young people, the practical effects of this Alliance would be a continuation of the youth unemployment crisis and further exclusion from society as Europe-wide problems continue and Europe-wide solutions are blocked.
The problems young people are facing are nothing short of huge - youth unemployment of 5.5million young people in the EU (figure from December 2013) - an unemployment rate of 23.3%. This means that more than one in five young Europeans on the labour market cannot find a job; in Greece and Spain it is one in two.
At the European Youth Forum, we constantly demand, on behalf of young people, that more be done to help Europe's youth. We see various sectors in the EU experiencing positive signs and moving out of crisis, however young people risk being sacrificed and, in the years ahead, becoming a lost generation with zero prospects nor opportunities. Too many are still unemployed, or if they are employed it is often in part-time, precarious work which will not give them the foot on the career ladder that they need in order to lead independent, autonomous lives. Too many young people across the continent cannot even move out of the parental home. Young people living with mum and dad at the age of 35 is no longer a phenomenon we see just in Spain and Italy, but now it is evident in the UK and other northern European countries.
The problems for young people are huge. However, unlike the ideologues of YEAH, we know that the solutions lie with more EU action and not retrenchment. Ultimately the European Union is good for young people and the rise of extreme, anti-EU nationalism hurts young people, blocking the concrete solutions to improve the lives of citizens that Europe's leaders should be implementing.
Now, more than ever, it is vital that European politicians support youth rights and we believe that the European Union is the best vehicle to protect young people's rights across Europe. Of course, the EU is not perfect! In fact, we think that in the rush to emerge from the crisis, young people's rights have been ignored and overridden. The Youth Forum constantly demands that the EU do more to guarantee young people access to jobs, quality education and free movement - a Europe where they define their own future. However, Europe-wide problems, such as job security and unemployment, need Europe-wide solutions and that it why the rights of Europe's young people are best fought for in an EU context. To give an example of an area where the EU has and continues to make a difference for young people, look at the Youth Guarantee, for which the Youth Forum has fought for the last three years. This is a guarantee that NEETS (not in Education, Employment nor Training) will not be out of education, training or employment for more than four months. This finally came into force last year across the EU and should have an impact on young people's chances of getting sustainable, quality employment, though indeed more must be done.
With one month to go to the European elections, we are inviting those MEP candidates that agree with our vision to sign up to our "LoveYouthFuture" pledges. This campaign seeks to ensure the next European Parliament and Commission priortises the rights of young people.
Therefore the establishment of YEAH and the trend in several European countries of rising support for right-wing nationalist parties should be of great concern to young people and to anyone that supports youth rights. The anti-EU rhetoric that we see from these parties would ultimately have disastrous effects on young people, because the EU continues to ensure youth rights across Europe and is in a position to offer solutions that no country can offer on their own.
Though young people remain the most positive age group in their attitude toward the EU, worryingly they are the least likely to vote in European elections - 70% of young people did not vote in the last election. This leaves the door open to power and influence for these extreme right wing parties with their dangerous agendas for young people's rights. The only way to ensure true hope for Europe's young people is for them to vote in the European Elections for a candidate that supports their rights.
Find out which candidates support the LoveYouthFuture Pledges at: www.loveyouthfuture.eu/supporters