Jean-Claude Juncker has personally championed the project
The EU Commission chief has personally championed the European Solidarity Corps as a way of arresting the bloc’s alarming slide in popularity and breeding a new generation of europhiles.
But critics have dismissed it as a “brainwashing” scheme and say it is little more than a way of masking sky-high youth unemployment in many Mediterranean states, which are providing the bulk of its participants.
Eurocrats have placed an ambitious target of attracting 100,000 members to the scheme by 2020 and yesterday put aside £300 million of extra funding to help it get off the ground.
The solidarity corps is billed as a volunteer organisation but in reality many of the postings will pay youngsters a salary footed by European taxpayers out of that gargantuan budget.
It is a key plank of the EU chief’s highly publicised cacophony of social policy pledges which together are designed to move the EU away from being a predominantly economic alliance.
Britain will be expected to fund the programme for the first tranche of its budget, until 2020, even though we are leaving the bloc, at an estimated cost of around £40 million to taxpayers.
Mr Juncker said: “More than just a principle, solidarity is a state of mind that goes to the very heart of what the European Union is about.
“The Solidarity Corps is that principle personified. I am proud of what the Corps represents and grateful to all those signing up and the organisations providing placements for our young people.”
Solidarity is a state of mind that goes to the very heart of what the European Union is about.
He beamed: “Today we are giving a proper legal form to the Corps, along with the budget to sustain it.
“The participants on the ground are the ones giving the Corps – and European solidarity – life."
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According to the Commission the scheme will offer young people four different types of opportunities – called Solidarity Placements, Volunteering Teams, Solidarity Projects and Networking Activities.
It lists examples of the kind of work they will do as helping people with disabilities, fighting discrimination, working in migrant reception centres, promoting human rights and encouraging others to join the Corps.
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One of the examples eurocrats give is a young, unemployed Greek person going to work in a migrant reception centre for eight months, all the while receiving “a net monthly salary as well as a monthly allowance”.
People joining the scheme – who are required to sign a “solidarity contract” pledging allegiance – may also be sent to work in other EU member states as part of a bid to improve understanding between societies.
According to EU statistics 30,000 people have subscribed to the Solidarity Corps database – meaning they have registered an interest – since it launched in December 2016, most of them from Southern Europe.
But only 112 employers have signed up looking for participants, raising questions over the extent to which Brussels is going to have to create placements for youngsters to fulfil.