"The Eastern Partnership policy provides an opportunity for the European Union (EU) and six European neighbours to build closer links and ties based on mutual interests and wishes. The EU vision of the Eastern neighbourhood is for the countries adjacent to the EU to live in peace, harmony and prosperity. The EU is ready to provide the necessary means and support to those willing to construct this reality through systemic implementation of the necessary reforms," said Mr Juris Poikāns, the Ambassador-at-Large for the Eastern Partnership at the Latvian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. "Youth itself, and as part of a broader civil society, can and should play an important part in building further links between the EU and the Eastern Partnership countries."
Participants at the forum will look to generate new solutions to the youth unemployment problem and analyse opportunities to adapt various existing mobility and international cooperation programmes in order to boost the employability of young people. Best practice examples of innovative youth work will be exchanged, and participants will also draw up youth policy recommendations to be presented at the Eastern Partnership Summit that will take place in Riga on 21-22 May.
"The Latvian Presidency has brought cross-sectoral cooperation to the forefront of its agenda. Through the EU Member States being united in this belief, the sharing of best practice and seeking more new solutions to empower our young generation, we can help our youngsters to prosper as individuals," said Mārīte Seile, the Latvian Minister for Education and Science.
So far cooperation in the youth field between the EU and Eastern Partnership countries has been implemented mainly with support from the "Youth in Action" and "Erasmus+" non-formal learning programmes.
"More than 15 000 participants from Eastern Partnership countries took part in the projects within just two years", explained Mathieu Bousquet, the Acting Head of the Regional Programmes Neighbourhood East Unit at the European Commission. "Looking beyond the numbers of people reached, these projects contributed to developing young people's skills and competences, their drive to be mobile and their self-confidence when looking for a job and further education. They also made a major contribution to legitimising youth work and youth policy as a credible and important sector of civil society, and offered great support to beneficiaries from the youth sector in developing important financial capacities, allowing them to access other types of funding".
The Eastern Partnership Youth Forum is taking place within the framework of the Latvian Presidency of the Council of the EU and the Eastern Partnership's "Contacts Between People" platform. The forum is coordinated by the Agency for International Programs for Youth, together with the Ministry of Education and Science of the Republic of Latvia, the European Commission, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Welfare, the European Youth Forum and other partners.
The first Eastern Partnership Youth Forum took place on 22-25 October 2013 in Kaunas and brought together 230 participants. The forum strengthened the recognition of youth work and non-formal education, forming closer links between work being done at international, national and local levels.
Videos from the Youth Forum.
Looking back at the Youth Forum.