The inclusion of ‘Youth’ as a concept in European policy is a relatively recent phenomenon. The Treaty of Maastricht in 1993 extended the scope of EU policies to include the youth field, by virtue of Article 149 § 2. This states that the EU should “…encourage the development of youth exchanges and of exchanges of socio-educational instructors…”
Before 2001, the activities of the European Institutions in the youth field mainly focused on the consideration and implementation of specific programmes, such as ‘Youth for Europe’, launched in 1988. However, a consensus remained that this action and cooperation needed to be built on further and that young people themselves needed to be more involved.
The White Paper on Youth was adopted in November 2001. This contained a proposal to the EU’s Member States to increase cooperation in four youth priority areas: participation, information, voluntary activities and a greater understanding and knowledge of youth. The White Paper proposed to take the youth dimension more into account when developing other relevant policies, such as education and training, employment and social inclusion, health and anti-discrimination.
On the basis of the White Paper, the Council of the European Union in June 2002 established a framework for European co-operation in the field of youth. Later, in November 2005, the framework was updated to take into account the European Youth Pact .
In April 2009, the Commission presented a Communication entitled "An EU Strategy for Youth – Investing and Empowering. A renewed open method of coordination to address youth challenges and opportunities" . The new Strategy invites both the Member States and the Commission, in the period 2010–2018, to cooperate in the youth field by means of a renewed open method of coordination. It proposes a cross-sectoral approach, with both short and long-term actions, which involve all key policy areas that affect Europe's young people. It emphasises the importance of youth work and defines reinforced measures for a better implementation of youth policies at the EU level. The Strategy invites all Member States to organise a permanent and regular dialogue (Structured Dialogue) with young people. Furthermore, the Commission in its Strategy encourages a more research and evidence-based youth policy.
The Commission's adoption of the new strategy on youth followed an extensive consultation exercise undertaken in 2008, involving national authorities, the European Youth Forum, youth organizations and other stakeholders. Young people themselves were consulted on-line and subsequently invited to react to the Commission's proposals in a new phase of the permanent dialogue between the EU and its youth.
In November 2009, the EU Council of Youth Ministers, composed of the 27 Member States of the European Union, adopted a Resolution on a renewed framework for European cooperation in the youth field for the next decade. It is based on the Commission's Communication of April 2009 "An EU Youth Strategy: Ivesting and Empowering".
The new EU Youth Strategy defines two overall objectives of the new framework: