The importance of the European Union for the Netherlands
Why should you vote on May 22nd?
By Claudia Elion
The European Union (EU) is an unique model of co-operation in the 21st century. One could say that no other regional institution has brought so many benefits to countries as the EU has. It combines supragovernmental and intergovernmental elements. In this manner, the EU has a decision-process that includes all the European citizens, as well as states and corporations. However, since 2007 and the financial crisis, people started to criticize the integration and the eventual loss of sovereignty of states. Has the EU really brought so much benefits to the Netherlands and, more specific, to the youth?
What began as a purely economic union has evolved into an organization spanning policy areas, including development, human rights, defence and education. By creating a single market within Europe, trade increased and the EU transformed into a major trading power. The adjoined countries benefit by having a greater trading market, an improved competing position in the world and more access to job facilities in other countries. So does the Netherlands: although Polish employees work in Dutch companies, employees from the Netherlands work in Poland as well. The labour mobility has increased and unemployment can be contested.
Another reason to support the EU is because of their attention to youth unemployment. A target of the EU is to achieve a 75% employment rate for the working-age population (20-64 years). The current situation is that more than 5.5 million young people are unemployed in the EU today, a rate of 23.5%. To tackle this number and decrease the amount of unemployed young people, the Council adopted the 'Recommendation on establishing a Youth Guarantee' in April 2013. All young people under 25 must receive a good quality offer of employment, continued education and a traineeship or apprenticeship within a short amount of time after leaving formal education, ensured by Member States. This is a structural reform in the mid and longer term, helping school-work transitions, public institutions to work better and improve the functioning of the economy. In the Netherlands, the youth unemployment rate has indeed decreased slightly since 1980s. By implementing the structural reforms, the total rate will decrease even more.
Furthermore, in the late 1980s the EU has set up a program to encourage students to study abroad: the Erasmus Programme. Its aim is to cooperate cross-borders between states and to aid the growth of international studying. Currently, more than 4,000 higher institutions participate in Erasmus. By 2007, over 5 million students took part in it. The Programme guarantees that the exchange is recognized by universities and ensures that students do not have to pay extra tuition fees. Students may receive grants for their studies or training abroad. It is conditioned by the EU budget of approximately 490 million euro.
On May 22nd, new elections for the European Parliament will be held in the Netherlands. This institution has become a powerful co-legislator and is one of the key players in shaping European policies. The European Parliament elections provide every European citizen the opportunity to influence the EU decisions for the coming five years. The EU has brought so far many benefits to the Netherlands and its youth. You should go out and vote!