“Europe awaits our youth with open arms because they too are Europeans and deserve to benefit from all the good that the European Single Market can offer them.”
In the current context of Andorra’s negotiations with the EU, it is clear that one group that will be significantly affected by the outcomes is our youth. But what is the real scope of what we could consider as Andorra’s youth? A reference can be found in the National Youth Forum, which recently, on the recommendation of the Council of Europe, expanded the age range for participation to be between 15 and 35 years old. This means it potentially includes around 18,000 young people, approximately 22% of our country’s population, which is not insignificant!
Having defined the young collective of our country, it is necessary to ask whether these 18,000 citizens, most of whom are of an age to educate themselves or embark on a professional career, are sufficiently aware of what the Association Agreement could represent for them. I dare say, probably not, as is likely the case for the rest of the population. Therefore, it is necessary to inform, educate, and share with them everything they need to know about the negotiations with the EU, the contents of the agreement, and how it will affect them if the “YES” vote prevails in the binding referendum that seems to be scheduled for next autumn, if all goes as planned.
Everything seems to indicate that we are approaching the end of the negotiations, and although there are still some very important issues pending, such as the financial protocol where much negotiation remains, leading to a recent meeting between members of Andorra Banking and government negotiators, it is clear that an intensification of the information process for the population regarding everything this agreement can mean for Andorra and its people is necessary. Therefore, beyond what we have been able to follow on the www.andorraue.ad portal, the multiple information sessions organized by the government and the Chamber of Commerce, and the commendable work of the press, which has spared no effort in informing us and giving us their opinion from various perspectives, it is clear that it is now necessary to communicate to us the final result of the negotiations and what it will represent for us, including the youth.
Speaking of youth, the State Secretariat for European Affairs recently organized a comprehensive day dedicated to the young people of our country to inform them about the state of the negotiations and, most importantly, the opportunities and challenges that Andorra’s accession to the European Single Market can represent for this group. In a very comprehensive format, government representatives, young representatives of national associations such as the Youth Forum, and international speakers such as the Europa Catalunya team and the European Youth Federalists, as well as renowned specialists in European programs, many of which focus on European youth and, who knows, perhaps also on Andorran youth in the future, participated.
To begin with, our young people need to analyze the current sphere in which they operate, both in their studies and in entrepreneurial or professional development projects, and compare it to what it would mean to be part of the European Single Market. Let’s remember: 450 million inhabitants, 56 million jobs, 23 million businesses, 18% of the world’s GDP, and now add 2 trillion euros in “European programs” to the mix.
One striking aspect of the aforementioned day was the contrast between the experiences shared by young Andorrans and those of young Europeans. The former could only explain frustrating situations resulting from their status as Andorrans or citizens of a third country. I recall the experience of a brilliant Andorran student who aspired to a job at a European company and, due to her Andorran nationality, despite being the best candidate, was rejected because she did not belong to an EU member country.
The same goes for an applicant for a volunteer program who, despite meeting all the requirements, had his Andorran passport condemn him to a “No.” In contrast, young representatives and not-so-young individuals from EU member states only spoke of positive and rewarding experiences, which, above all, had allowed them to grow professionally to limits they had never imagined, all thanks to the benefits of European programs.
The first thing to say about these European programs is that, in relation to the Association Agreement, they represent the opportunity for Andorra to sign up for them based on the preferences agreed upon by our government. In this regard, the dialogue of our youth with the government will be vital in choosing and determining which programs interest them the most, bearing in mind that Andorra will have to contribute financially if it wants to make these programs available to the country’s population.
That said, it is worth noting that access to the EU Single Market means that our students will be considered on an equal footing with European students when it comes to accessing European universities and will have greater ease in having their qualifications recognized. It also means enjoying the same labor and public health rights as other Europeans. And, of course, it means bidding farewell to the need for visas.
But beyond that, it represents the opportunity to do internships or work in European countries much more easily than before, or to benefit as students or young researchers from European programs that Andorra chooses to participate in, such as Erasmus+, Horizon Europe, or Life, or to apply for employment insertion programs such as PICE, Mobilize, Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs, Eurodyssey, or EURES.
Let’s focus on some of these European programs that could be very interesting for our youth, students, professionals, and entrepreneurs. ERASMUS+, for example, is the most successful program for student and teacher mobility, with a strong focus on social inclusion, green and digital transition, as well as promoting youth participation in democratic life, not to mention the promotion of sports, which many of our young athletes would certainly appreciate, especially those who are currently somewhat disoriented in their future prospects.
But in addition, Erasmus+ Traineeship promotes scholarships to encourage work experience for higher education students and recent graduates, and the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions program promotes research scholarships derived from doctoral and post-doctoral education through research projects worldwide. And what about the paid volunteering program for young people aged 18 to 30, known as the European Solidarity Corps, or the #DiscoverEU program, which offers a bonus of €1,200 to travel by train across Europe and connect with young people from all over the European continent?
Or programs to participate in European dialogue, such as Erasmus+ Virtual Exchange or EU Youth Dialogue, or Life for the protection of nature and the environment, as well as for climate action. And how interesting could it be for our youth to participate in the Creative Europe program, focused on the cultural (architecture, cultural heritage, design, literature, music, and performing arts) and creative (cinema and audiovisual sector) fields?
And without age limits and thinking about our entrepreneurs and the search for job opportunities, we have programs such as Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs, MobiliseSME Mobility Exchange for SME staff, or, most importantly, EURES, the large European job exchange. And thinking about science, technology, and R&D, we have Horizon Europe, which manages a figure that is staggering, 95.5 billion euros.
In conclusion, our youth only need to visit the European Youth Portal EU Initiatives, where they will find everything that might interest them and, above all, they will realize the true scope of what they can benefit from once we become part of the European Single Market, if we ultimately decide to do so in a referendum.
All of this needs to be explained very clearly now. In this regard, I encourage the youth of Andorra to inform themselves and inform all those who are studying around the world and are not as connected to the reality of the country as they should be, as this information, once analyzed, may change their lives.
Europe awaits our youth with open arms because they too are Europeans and deserve to benefit from all the good that the European Single Market can offer them, but seizing the opportunities will require a proactive attitude from everyone!
By Pere Augé, CEO and Founding Partner of Augé Holding Group
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