Structured dialogue means that governments and administrations, including EU institutions, discuss chosen themes with young people, in order to obtain results which are useful for policy-making. The debate is structured in terms of themes and timing: events where young people can discuss the agreed themes amongst themselves and also with EU politicians are organised on a regular basis.
The structured dialogue is a direct follow-up to the White Paper on Youth and a logical consequence of the European Youth Pact, which both highlight the importance of consulting young people on matters which concern them.
The stalling of progress on the European Constitutional Treaty prompted the Commission to call for an in-depth debate on European policies. An initiative, known as Plan-D for Democracy, Dialogue and Debate, was launched “to stimulate a wider debate between the European Union’s democratic institutions and citizens”.
And young people, whose active participation is vital if they are to feel that the European Union is meaningful for them, are a key constituency for the three Ds. To highlight the relevance of youth, the Council of Ministers adopted a Resolution in 2005, which invites both the Commission and the Member States to develop a structured dialogue with young people and their organisations, researchers in the youth field and policy-makers. The need for a structured dialogue was also supported by a Council Resolution [78 KB] in November 2006 and by the Communication on ‘Promoting young people’s full participation in education, employment and society’ adopted in September 2007.
Youth organisations have a vital role to play in the structured dialogue, as they speak on behalf of a great number of young people. The main partner of the EU institutions is therefore the European Youth Forum. Structured dialogue aims at addressing all young people, including those with fewer opportunities or not formally organised. Hence, youth organisations are invited to try to reach out beyond their members and to involve an even larger diversity of young people.
Measures are taken to ensure that a large range of young people and a broad spectrum of youth organisations will be represented at European youth events. In the centralised event of the European Youth Week, a significant percentage of the participants are selected from projects supported by the Youth in Action programme, which prioritises youth with fewer opportunities.
The Youth Political Agenda is the basis of the structured dialogue. It is set up conjointly by the EU institutions, including the Council of the EU (i.e. the Member States) and young people represented through the European Youth Forum.
In 2007, the theme was "Social inclusion and diversity". In April 2008, the new theme "Future challenges for young people" was launched.
The European Commission steers and coordinates the dialogue, but cannot implement it alone. It relies on the support of the Member States and the National Youth Councils to organise local, regional and national debates and to feed back the results from the national to the European level.
Furthermore, the European Youth Forum plays an important role as the main umbrella organisation representing young people in Europe. The Forum is thus involved in the preparation and organisation of European youth events, and it represents young people in the so-called "Informal Fora" between Presidencies, European Commission, European Parliament and young people. The National agencies of the Youth in Action programme are also important factors, as they manage the funds available for implementing structured dialogue projects in the Member States.
Events of the structured dialogue take place in the Member States and at European level. At the European events, the young participants discuss topics related to the themes of the structured dialogue with politicians and officials of the EU institutions.
The main European events are the European Youth Weeks, Youth Events organised by the EU Presidencies and the Informal Fora organised on the fringes of the meetings of the Council of Youth Ministers.
The new theme of the structured dialogue: "Future challenges for young people":