The call of the youth organisations has been heard. In a special session at the beginning of May, the National Council accepted the proposal by Martina Munz (SP/SH) “Promoting volunteering activities. Joining the European Solidarity Corps” (19.3614). The proposal calls on the Federal Council to start negotiations with the EU so that Switzerland can be involved in the European Solidarity Corps programme as soon as possible. 

The European Solidarity Corps is the successor to the European Voluntary Service programme, which, until 2017, was part of the Erasmus+ education and training programme. Since 2018, the European Solidarity Corps programme has been an independent programme. With a dedicated budget of €1,009 billion for the period 2021-2027, the new programme will offer at least 270,000 young people the opportunity to contribute to addressing societal and humanitarian challenges through volunteering or their own solidarity projects. 

The current European Voluntary Service programme for Switzerland

In Switzerland, the European Voluntary Service continues to exist through the Swiss programme for Erasmus+. However, the programme is much more limited and results in considerable inequality of opportunity for young people in Switzerland. The number of Swiss volunteers participating in this programme has tripled since 2016 and is now reaching the limit imposed by the financial resources of the current separate solution. This programme is expected to end in December 2021.  

Call from several youth organisations for membership

Concerned about the termination of the Swiss European Voluntary Service programme and aware of the added value of Switzerland's participation in the European Solidarity Corps programme for young Swiss people, 11 youth organisations have joined forces to ask the Parliament to support the Munz proposal.  The objective is to allow Switzerland to be part of a successful programme and to open up further exchange opportunities for young Swiss people. 

The organisations: AFAJ, AFS Switzerland, Cevi Schweiz, CSAJ, ICYE Switzerland, Intermundo, Nomes, Rotary Switzerland Liechtenstein, SCI Switzerland, UNES, yes. 

The European Solidarity Corps: A beneficial association for young Swiss people

In her speech, National Councillor Martina Munz spoke of the many advantages of the European Solidarity Corps over the current Swiss solution. On the one hand, a number of tools are available to organisations and young people participating in the programme; a central European database that connects interested volunteers with potential placements, a Youthpass certificate recognised throughout Europe – which attests to the skills acquired during a placement, online linguistic support, which offers free online language learning opportunities for young people, etc. 
Furthermore, this programme allows graduates of vocational education and training to have wider access to long-term exchange experiences once they have completed their apprenticeship and up to the age of 30, which is not the case with the Swiss Erasmus+ programme.*  

Next step: The Council of States

As the proposal was accepted by the National Council, it will be discussed by the Council of States in a forthcoming parliamentary session. If adopted by the upper house, the ball will be in the Federal Council's court.

*The current Swiss Erasmus+ programme (without the European Voluntary Service) allows exchanges during vocational training or up to 12 months after graduation. After that, non-students no longer have this possibility.

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